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Tennessee vs UMass: Final Grades

A late Week 4 evaluation of the Vols latest game.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Tennessee
The Vols had a tough time with UMass.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

So, Saturday didn't really go as planned. Fans - and hopefully the players and coaches as well - were expecting an opportunity to get a few things figured out before the big showdown against Georgia in Week 5.

That didn't happen as Tennessee struggled all day against one of the worst teams in the country and won a close match, 17-13.

Tennessee was a four-touchdown favorite coming into the game. The performance (or lack thereof) left head coach Butch Jones with nothing to say but it was an "unacceptable" showing.


The offense came into this game looking to make some improvements after struggling against Florida for the better part of three quarters.

They failed to accomplish that goal. UMass came into this game allowing 395 total yards of offense and the Vols could only put up 315 total yards. They also only scored 17 points against a team that was allowing an average of 30 points a game.

And for what seems like the hundredth game in a row, Tennessee didn't put any points on the board until late in the second quarter.

The passing game struggled yet again, only garnering 184 yards in the stat box. Quarterback Quinten Dormady was ineffective for the second straight week and now looks like he is regressing.

The offensive line had major issues all game long after stalwart tackle Jashon Robertson was ruled out for the game. It was so bad in the trenches that Jones pulled multiple linemen throughout the game and could not get the continuity going that he has been preaching about since August.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Georgia Tech
The offensive line struggled without Jashon Robertson.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The only bright spots on Saturday were running back John Kelly (surprise) and receiver Brandon Johnson.

Johnson had the best game of his career, catching seven passes for 123 yards. He looked great running routes over the middle and creating space. He did have one big drop though and that can't happen if the Vols want to beat the top dogs in the SEC.

Overall, it was a sad and disappointing day for the offensive unit. Things may not get better next week against a vastly improved Georgia defense, either.

Final Grade: 1.5 (D)


The defense had a pretty good day and was definitely the best unit on Saturday. They recorded a season-high seven sacks and made life pretty tough for the Minutemen.

Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop made life a nightmare for the UMass offensive line, using different varieties of formations, blitzes, and match ups to give the Vols plenty of success.

Overall, UT had a good day on defense, but there were still a few issues that cropped up that have plagued them all season - namely their run defense.

UMass was able to gain 144 yards on 37 carries. On the season, UMass averaged under 100 yards per game and under three yards per carry.

The Vols allowed just 3.89 yards per carry, but this was a UMass team that has struggled the ball all season and was able to get a season-high mark against the Vols.

The other issue was allowing momentum-swinging drives after a big score. It has occurred to me that after the Vols have a big drive on offense that results in points, the defense usually allows the opposing team to drive down and get some type of points on the next drive.

This occurred twice during this game, as well as other times during the Georgia Tech and Florida Gators games. The defense needs to learn how to keep the momentum in the Vols favor more often.

If the defense can find a way to stop the run to compliment their pass rush (9 sacks over the last two games), then Tennessee may actually have a decent defense to roll out on the field for the rest of the season.

Let's hope so.

Final Grade: 3.5 (A)

Special Teams

The unit played well overall, but Tennessee has to find a kicker to rely on for field goals.

Kicker Brent Cimaglia missed his only attempt - a 45 yarder - and it feels like if UT has to attempt a field goal over 40 yards then they have a better shot of hitting a dartboard while blindfolded than making the attempt.

Punter Trevor Daniel was magnificent again, averaging over 48 yards per punt. The coverage units did well too.

Kicker Aaron Medley made both of his extra point attempts and is still perfect on the season.

Tennessee will need a major spark from this unit against Georgia. The Vols have the coaching and players to do so and can definitely provide some plays for Tennessee.

Final Grade: 3.0 (B)


For the second straight week the coaching staff made very questionable decisions and did not have the Vols performing at the level that fits the talent they have on their roster.

Jones was constantly swapping out offensive linemen and made a very questionable call when he pulled Dormady and put in quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.

UMass had just driven down the field and scored a touchdown to pull the team within four points. On Dormady's last offensive drive, he was able to get the Vols into field goal range and they were able to make the kick.

Dormady was not perfect by any means, but he also wasn't playing bad enough to warrant being pulled. Guarantano's performance did not help at all, either. He just does not look ready to be a starting quarterback at this point.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Tennessee

Butch Jones made questionable calls again.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

But the oddest part about the entire situation was the timing. Why would you make a change at the most important position on the field after the opposing team just took a chunk of the momentum back?

Offensive coordinator Larry Scott's play calling was also suspect. The offense was predictable, vanilla, and lacked cohesion throughout the game. Scott was never able to set a rhythm throughout the game and it showed.

For once, Shoop was the bright spot. While his unit wasn't perfect either, they were the reason the Vols won the game and avoided possibly the biggest upset in school history.

Another week, another bad display of coaching for the Vols. I do not want Jones gone, but it gets harder and harder to defend his decisions every week.

Final Grade: 1.5 (D)

Overall Grade: 2.40 (C)

The Vols have been up, down, back, forth, in, out - all around - whatever you want to call it all season long. They seem to be stuck in mediocrity and they are continuously losing the talent due to injuries to pull themselves out of this rut.

Tennessee has also yet to find an identity on either side of the ball, something that is very concerning after a third of the season has passed. A big win against Georgia is something the Vols desperately need.

Overall Grade For The Season: 2.51 (C+)