Tennessee did enough in the first half today, riding a strong(!) first half by Justin Worley and Mar'Quez North to a 31-12 halftime lead against Arkansas State. The second half: not quite as pretty, but effective enough, as Arkansas State was held at bay long enough for a margin-padding Aaron Medley 38-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Of course, there's more to this win than just that. Von Pearson had a stellar first half before leaving the game due to injury. Justin Worley had 7.9(!) yards per attempt before flatlining in the second half, ending on 6.5 YPA and clocking in with his first pick of the year. Still, 248 yards--159 of which went to Pearson and North, including two big-boy catches by North for TDs--isn't a bad effort, especially since the second half offense went experimental.
The biggest news on offense? Welcome Jalen Hurd to 23 carries, 83 yards, a TD, and a big-boy 12-yard run with Tennessee backed up against their own end zone. Will this mean Hurd sees more of the ball now that the schedule's ramping up? Probably; this was a big step for him.
The defense: solid and strong in the first half. Fredi Knigten was largely shut down in the passing game; he did break edge contain a few times on the ground, but nothing too bad. J.D. McKissic: total non-factor. Well done, defense.
Of course, things get way harder next week, but for now let's be happy we got through the tricky-trip-you-up part of the schedule with at least skating, if not flying, colors.