On a homecoming night where attendance was the main topic of interest, Tennessee fans showed up. For the most part, the stands were full, outside of the student section.
I’m not sure I buy Tennessee’s announced attendance of 95,000+, but it was a solid effort from the fans in a spot where most schools would find an empty stadium.
Aside from the student section, Neyland really isn’t all that empty. pic.twitter.com/x844Yke1XI— Patrick Brown (@pbrown247) November 4, 2017
Onto the game.
Tennessee started fast — for once. They were able to score a touchdown on their opening drive behind a strong opening sequence from Jarrett Guarantano. After hitting several intermediate throws, Guarantano capped the drive with a keeper to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead.
After trading punts, Southern Miss got their offense going with a huge play on 3rd and 18. It was a deep jump ball, which was caught by Korey Robertson. He was able to run down inside the ten, but the drive stalled. The Golden Eagles added a field goal to bring it to 7-3.
On the following drive, Guarantano went down after taking a hit. He was forced to exit the game, meaning freshman Will McBride entered. Unfortunately, that meant burning his redshirt.
Guarantano re-entered the game to take a knee before halftime, but McBride started the second half.
A rash of injuries along the offensive line and a new quarterback made moving the ball difficult for the Vols. Luckily for them, Southern Miss helped them out. Emmanuel Moseley grabbed a pick deep in Golden Eagle territory. John Kelly got into the endzone from 20 yards out on the next play.
The next drive, Darrell Taylor forced a sack and a fumble. Tennessee recovered — once again deep in Southern Miss territory. Once again, John Kelly punched it in. Suddenly, Tennessee was up 24-3.
From there it turned into a punting match. Neither offense really got anything accomplished until the middle of the 4th quarter. It was Southern Miss who changed quarterbacks and immediately put together a 95 yard drive to score.
The lead was still 14 for the Volunteers with under seven minutes to play.
Tennessee went three and out again on the following possession. Southern Miss appeared to have some momentum, but their comeback effort fell short on a 4th and 1 run. That would wrap this one up.
It’s alarming that Tennessee was only able to generate 210 total yards of offense against Southern Miss. If not for a couple of horrible turnovers from Southern Miss deep in Tennessee territory, this could have been a much different game.
Of course, some of this was the amount of injuries that piled up. By the end of the night, I’m not even sure who finished the game on the offensive line. That’s something to monitor with three games left.
I’m sure Butch Jones is just happy to be back in the win column, though.
Box Score Notables
Jarrett Guarantano: 9-13, 102 yards and a rushing TD (Exited in the first half)
Will McBride: 1-8, 13 yards (Played all of the second half)
John Kelly: 20 carries, 83 yards, 2 TDs
Ty Chandler: 11 carries, 18 yards