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Paradigm Shift: The Battle at Bristol

Last week we learned about how important winning the turnover and explosive play battle was, but then we won in spite of it. We also learned about how to evaluate drives. This week a generous opponent turned the turnover battle into a rout, which means we get to talk about garbage time.

See ball, get ball.
See ball, get ball.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Garbage Time

Given that Tennessee has played close through almost all of its first two games, it strikes me as odd to open with a definition about what is not a close game, but it is important for us as fans to understand that if we are to fairly evaluate both the Vols and their opponents, then we must disregard the data from non-close periods of the game. Fortunately, I am not burdened with the responsibility of figuring out where to draw the close game/garbage time line; I just let Bill Connelly do the mental heavy lifting again:

  • "The criteria for 'garbage time' are as follows: a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth quarter."

So there we have it - for as long as the scoring margin is within the prescribed bounds above, we should use the relevant data. As such, all data listed herein will be derived from the official play-by-play, but only the data that passes the close game/garbage time test will be used. All of that to say that when Josh Dobbs crossed into the endzone with 6:45 left in regulation to take the Vols' lead to 37-17 over the Hokies, the Battle at Bristol officially went to garbage time. Which brings us back to

Turnovers and Explosive Plays


  • Tennessee - one
  • Virginia Tech - four

Explosive Plays

  • Tennessee - Runs: six/Passes: two/Total: eight
  • Virginia Tech - Runs: two/Passes: one/Total: three

That's more like it. Despite sputtering out of the gate, Tennessee was able to stay focused against a young but eager Virginia Tech. The Vols were repeatedly gifted scoring opportunities by the Hokies turning the ball over within their own territory, but credit Tennessee with finishing their chances this week.

Average Starting Field Position

  • Tennessee - 40
  • Virginia Tech - 24

Total Drives

  • Tennessee - 14
  • Virginia Tech - 12

Positive Drives

  • Tennessee - five
  • Virginia Tech - six

Scoring Opportunities

  • Tennessee - six
  • Virginia Tech - four

Points per Scoring Opportunity

  • Tennessee - 5.2
  • Virginia Tech - 2.5

3rd/4th Conversion Percentage

  • Tennessee - 17%
  • Virginia Tech - 46%

The data indicate that Tech's inability to hold on to the football had some pretty strange effects. That Tennessee won by the margin it did while only converting 17% of its 3rd/4th down chances suggest that Tennessee had some big plays and short fields, and that checks out. UT was more than two-and-a-half times as likely as VT to execute an explosive play, and the Vols better than doubled the ability of the Hokies to convert scoring chances into points. As the General said and ChrisKF1 points out, "Play for and make the breaks, and when one comes your way, score."