Anything important come out of the Vols’ win?
Tennessee 45 Chattanooga 10
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville (93,097)
Vols QB Justin Worley threw three TD passes on Saturday. But by running for two more (an eight-yarded in the second quarter and a 1 yard score in the third), he became the first Tennessee signal caller to rush for two TDs in a game since Casey Clausen in a 45-17 Florida Citrus Bowl triumph over Michigan on New Years Day 2002.
Coach Jones really liked Worley’s aggressive mindset Saturday as well as his return to solid passing stats: 19 of 24 for 198 yards.
But the glaring fly in the ointment remained against an underwhelming opponent — Worley was sacked five times. One of them resulted in a turnover and the first 3 points for the Mocs.
And then there was the rushing attack: 42 carries for 123 yards. Yes, the five sacks are included and make the numbers look worse then they are. But they are not good… The tally was only 52 yards through the first three quarters, meaning that the Vols’ remaining 71 yards came during the fourth quarter when nothing was at stake. It all totaled 2.9 yards per carry. Against Chattanooga.
Derrell Scott 9-42, Justus Pickett 10-27, Nathan Peterman 5-26, Pig Howard 2-13, Deanthonie Summerhill 2-9, Jalen Hurd 2-7, Devrin Young 2-0, Justin Worley 10-(-1).
The good than came from the ground game were the young ones getting some quality time, Derrell Scott and Justus Pickett. That was important. We need depth in the ground game, especially with Jalen Hurd banged up and Devrin Young wholly unimpressive. And depth will come with experience. Unfortunately, Saturday was only a first step forward. Ole Miss, Alabama, and South Carolina will make any more forward steps much more difficult if not impossible, and this will put pressure on the passing game which will put pressure on our terrible OL, and…. well, you see where this is going. And the destination doesn’t end with the word “Bowl”.
On to better things, WR Jason Croom had a career high six catches for 76 yards. At 6 foot-five inches, he is a formidable talent, and that talent is starting to blossom.
And then there was Johnathon Johnson, a junior WR who caught three passes for 46 yards. Two of his catches were for touchdowns. Is Pig Howard going to find more time on the pines? Stay tuned…
And more… Only 5 penalty yards were assessed to Tennessee yesterday. That is a return to form for this 2014 squad who against Florida basically shot themselves in the foot with their undisciplined performance.
And then there was that Big Orange defense. Led by the budding All-America-to-be A.J. Johnson, Chattanooga was held to less than 100 passing yards and 106 yards rushing. Apart from a Georgia running back who has been suspended indefinitely, no big plays have been allowed by this Vols defense, probably the very best Tennessee defensive squad in many years.
And finally, the special teams are starting to look special. Aaron Medley is booming kickoffs and looks pretty consistent in FGAs and XPAs. The sound of the ball off of Matt Darr’s foot is starting to have a little ‘boom’ to it. And the return teams had a couple of nice runs, one on a punt return and another for 68 yards on a kickoff.
But back to the question of the day: did anything really important come out of this win? Looking for a silver lining, I would say yes because of how this team bounced back from a very bitter loss. And that quality starts with Butch Jones and his staff. It’s enough to keep one watching for at least a few more games in 2014 in the hope for some December football.