The Vols were looking to come out and start fast Monday night, however the exact opposite occurred against Georgia Tech.
Quinten Dormady and the rest of the Vols offense were absolutely stonewalled early in the game, however it would not last all night.
The slow start almost doomed the Vols, as it allowed Georgia Tech to execute their game plan and cause headaches all night long for the big orange. But Tennessee had a game plan of their own - and his name is John Kelly.
Tech drew first blood, scoring a touchdown on a 12-play, 6:51 drive that was anchored by a huge 44-yard pass by Tech on a 3rd and 12.
The Vols were terrible on offense early, totaling just 19 yards on their first three drives. A lack of consistent play by the entire offensive unit led to the early frustration and inefficiency.
Tennessee's first score came after linebacker Daniel Bituli stripped one of Tech's players for a fumble recovery. Kelly scored on the ensuing drive to tie the game up, 7-7.
John Kelly dives for it, and he has Tennessee's 1st TD of the 2017 season: pic.twitter.com/zTzslvsi5Y— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 5, 2017
Before Kelly's touchdown, their biggest play was a 70-yard punt by Trevor Daniel.
However, Tech accepted the challenge and drove down the field on a 16-play, almost seven minute drive that ended with another touchdown to put the Jackets up 14-7.
Georgia Tech led in every statistical category at halftime. The Vols defense was on the field three times as long as Tech's defense and Tech had over twice as many first downs as Tennessee. They decimated Tennessee on the ground as well, racking up over 150 rushing yards in the first half.
The 1st half stats for the Vols aren't pretty. Georgia Tech dominated the time of possession, and Dormady is off to a rough start: pic.twitter.com/VC4frf95x9— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 5, 2017
The third quarter did not start well, either. Tech immediately drove down the field and scored on their first possession, eating up almost six minutes of game time during the 11-play drive.
Tennessee was absolutely abysmal on offense for their first possession of the second half, going three and out again. The majority of the calls were just simple check downs and short passes for Dormady, a possible sign of a lack of confidence from the coaching staff.
Tech, on the other hand, had little to no trouble moving the ball on offense. They had 290 rushing yards midway through the second drive of the second half. They destroyed Tennessee on the ground, handing the ball off 31 straight times at one point.
That’s 31 consecutive running plays for Georgia Tech.— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) September 5, 2017
The Vols finally looked like an SEC team towards the end of the third quarter. Tennessee drove down the field in a hurry centered around a big run by Kelly. They capped off the drive on a beautiful fade throw from Dormady to Marquez Calloway to close the gap, 21-14.
That's how you go up and get it. pic.twitter.com/XSwf7GyUoe— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 5, 2017
Georgia Tech could not be stopped though, as quarterback Taquon Marshall hit running back Qua Searcy for a huge pass down to the Vols seven yard line. Marshall would then dive into the endzone for a six yard touchdown to give the Jackets a 28-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Vols offense would score on the second straight drive after Marquez Callaway took a short pass all the way to the house to give Tennessee yet another breath of life. The sophomore wideout turned a six-yard catch into a 50 yard touchdown, while showing off some major speed in the process. 28 - 21, Yellow Jackets.
Callaway shows off his wheels after Tech missed two tackles, and he's GONE pic.twitter.com/z2roh0JT27— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 5, 2017
After three quarters, the Vols offense was doing its job. Could the defense do the same?
The answer: a very emphatic yes. The Vols caught a major break when Marshall went off the field with an apparent shoulder injury. The Jackets then proceeded to go three and out with a shanked punt on fourth down.
But the Vols couldn't capitalize on the great field position. Two bad throws from Dormady gave Tennessee a three and out. Georgia Tech got the ball back up seven with only eight minutes left to play.
Just when things started to look dire for the Vols, senior Rashaan Gaulden stripped running back J.J. Green as he was approaching the endzone. Tennessee recovered the ball at their own seven with hopes of evening up the score.
And boy, did they do just that.
Dormady hit Callway for another huge play on a 40-yard bomb to midfield. Kelly would then finish off the drive for the Vols, scoring his second touchdown of the game on yet another hard run.
Marquez Callaway made people fall in love with him left and right tonight (watch till the end): pic.twitter.com/Dyl8bk2QJA— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 5, 2017
28-28, folks. We have ourselves a ball game!
Unfortunately, the Tennessee defense couldn't contain Marshall. The electrifying quarterback made play after play to drive Tech into field goal range. Sophomore kicker Shawn Davis then had his field goal blocked to send the game into overtime.
Tennessee decided to give Tech the ball for the first possession of overtime. It was a very questionable call and one that yielded the expected touchdown as a result. 35-28, Tech.
Two more powerful runs by John Kelly put the Vols right back in the game and fans held their breath as they awaited for head coach Butch Jones to make a crucial decision. Do you go for two or kick the extra point?
John Kelly never gives up, and he pushes this into a 2nd OT pic.twitter.com/5DXVlKtBNp— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 5, 2017
Jones decides to play it safe and kick the extra point. 35-35. Double overtime. Did I mention we had a game here?
The Vols received the ball to start the second overtime. Dormady hit Callaway for a big gain on a second and long, setting up the Vols inside the Tech 10 for a first and goal situation.
A huge defensive pass interference call on the Jackets in the endzone moved the ball to the two yard line. Kelly plows in again for his fourth touchdown of the game.
Jones doesn't hesitate to send out the kicking team. It looks as if he won't go for the two-point conversion until it becomes a requirement in the third overtime. 42-35, Vols.
The big question is now - will Georgia Tech go for the two point conversion?
As expected, Marshall runs into the endzone for a huge touchdown on a quarterback option. He broke several tackles and followed his blockers to pay dirt to give Tech the potential win.
And as expected, Tech lines up for the two-point conversion.
All night long, the Vols failed to contain Marshall and the option, so why would this time be any different?
Tennessee calls a timeout to discuss things and they come out and stop the attempt. Marshall tried to run the option and was stopped short by Darrel Taylor and the Vols. He tried to lateral the ball, but it hit the surface and was rendered as incomplete.
Tennessee finished with 369 total yards, two penalties, and no turnovers. Georgia Tech finished with 655 total yards, four penalties and two turnovers.
The Yellow Jackets finished with a total time of possession of 56:27 to the Vols 18:33.
Vols Top Players:
RB John Kelly, Jr finished with 128 yards and 4 touchdowns.
QB Quinten Dormady went 11/16 for 153 yards and 2 TDs in the second half.
WR Marquez Callaway finished with four catches for 115 yards and 2 TDs.
Yellow Jackets Top Players:
QB TaQuon Marshall finished with 120 passing yards, 259 rushing yards and 5 TDS.
RB KirVonte Benson finished with 124 rushing yards and one touchdown.