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Tennessee vs Georgia Tech: Final Grades

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A scholarly breakdown of Tennessee’s performance against the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech v Tennessee
Marquez Callaway came up huge for the Vols.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Week one has passed us by and the Tennessee Vols are 1-0.

The victory did not come easily, but they found a way to make plays when it mattered. Most importantly, they found a way to win.

On the surface, UT looked pretty bad at times - but they also looked great at certain points throughout the game as well. There are still plenty of questions on both sides of the ball, but the Vols definitely have the talent and the coaching staff to make the necessary adjustments in order to get to the team to the next level.

Without further ado, here are Tennessee’s final grades for the Week One victory:

Offense

The offense was absolutely dreadful in the first half. The Vols came out looking dysfunctional and absent-minded. Receivers dropped passes, linemen missed blocks, and Dormady made a few bad throws into tight coverage.

The Vols accumulated 19 total yards on their first three drives and had three straight three-and-outs early on in the game.

Georgia Tech outgained the Vols 226-94 in the first half. The Yellow Jackets even had more passing yards than Tennessee and more than doubled UT’s first down total.

The beginning of the third quarter was no different. UT’s first possession ended in a three-and-out with the Vols gaining just nine yards.

Georgia Tech v Tennessee
John Kelly had just seven rushing attempts in the first half.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

By the next time Tennessee took possession, the Yellow Jackets had held the ball for over 30 minutes to Tennessee’s meager 10 minutes.

But things started to change after a missed field goal by Georgia Tech.

The Vols would go on to score 21 points in under 21 minutes during regular time while absolutely shredding the Jackets through the air and on the ground.

John Kelly and Marquez Callaway could not be stopped. Kelly ran for 93 of his 128 yards in the second half. All of Callaway’s production came in the second half.

The offensive line finally gave Dormady time to make throws and the receivers stopped dropping passes. Dormady looked extremely solid as well, going 11/16 for 153 yards and 2 TDs after completing just eight passes in the first half.

Most impressively, the once-beleaguered offensive line did not allow any sacks and there were no turnovers committed on the offensive side of the ball for the Vols. The offense also had only one penalty during the entire game.

And of course, they scored 42 points.

It was an up and down effort, but the no sacks, no turnovers, and minimal penalties help boost the final grade as I give the offense a steady, but could use improvement mark.

Final Grade: 3.0 (B)

Defense

All offseason one of the biggest questions was how the Vols planned on stopping the marquee flexbone offense of the Yellow Jackets.

That question never got answered as Tech lit up the Vols for 535 yards on the ground.

Tennessee came out fast and effective on the first two drives of the game. They hit their gaps, wrapped up, and were reading GT’s offense very well.

Tech’s first two drives produced two three-and-outs and 11 total yards. Then all of a sudden, the top came off and the cookies were everywhere.

Georgia Tech v Tennessee
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall ran around, through, and over the Volunteers.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A huge 44-yard pass from quarterback TaQuon Marshall to receiver Ricky Jeune on a 3rd and 12 ignited the spark that got the Tech offense rolling.

Tech would go on to score touchdowns on two of their next four drives and dominate in time of possession.

Even after all of the miscues and bad play, the Vols defense found a way to make plays when they mattered the most.

UT recovered two fumbles and turned those into touchdowns. The second fumble - a miraculous strip by Rashaan Gaulden - gave the Vols the ball with a chance to tie the game.

The defense also made the most important play of the game when they stopped Tech’s two-point attempt to win the game.

The Vols defense didn’t register a sack, but Tech also only threw the ball nine times. The Orange Swarm was very disciplined as well, committing zero penalties.

And let’s not forget that even though UT had months to prepare for the flexbone, Georgia Tech also had months to prepare for an average-at-best SEC defense.

The positive turnover margin and no penalties are nice, but allowing over 500 rushing yards, 120 passing yards on five attempts, and 41 points doesn’t sit very well in the minds of fans nor coaches. The defense has some budding pieces - see Daniel Bituli and Darrell Taylor - that make the future exciting, but there is a ton of work to do here.

Final Grade: 1.5 (D+)

Special Teams

Not only is Evan Berry the best returner in the SEC, he is possibly the best returner in the country. Every single time the kid touches the ball he has the chance to take it to the house.

I am honored to share a first name with a valiant playmaker such as he.

Berry is not the only special teams standout, either. There is also a guy named Trevor Daniel who is pretty good himself, too.

Berry looked magnificent in his return from last season’s knee injury. He showed off his speed and agility while powering his way to a gaudy 43-yard kick return average.

Daniel was more than effective as well, booming one of his kicks 70 yards downfield. He finished with a 47-yard average for the night.

Aaron Medley didn’t attempt any field goals, but he made his opportunities count, hitting all six of his PAT attempts.

The coverage on both the punt return and kick return teams was outstanding. The Vols were flying to the ball and smothered the returner(s) every time, allowing little to no yards throughout the night.

Oh yea, there was also that blocked kick that sent the game into overtime.

Paul Bain blocked Shawn Davis’ game-winning field goal attempt.

You have to excel in all three phases of the game to win, and there have been many games where the special teams were the difference between a win or loss (see the Kick 6). This unit absolutely killed it Monday night.

Final Grade: 4.0 (A+)

Coaching

This is where it gets a little tricky.

The evaluation of a coach and their respective staff usually hinges itself on three questions:

  • How prepared is the team and does the game plan make sense?
  • How well does the staff adjust during the game?
  • Does the head coach manage the clock in the correct manner?

It’s hard to come up with a definitive answer for all three questions after this game. There were times where the staff looked inept and there times where the staff seemed on top of their game(s).

I give a ton of credit to Butch Jones, Mike Canales, and Larry Scott for staying patient with Dormady and keeping the course with the offense. I think just about everyone expected Jarrett Guarantano to start the third quarter, and even more so after the Vols went three-and-out on their first possession.

Georgia Tech v Tennessee
Butch Jones and co. found a way to win a wild one Monday night.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bob Shoop on the other hand, didn’t really do anything to erase the doubts concerning his defense from a year ago. Maybe Tech’s offense is really that much of a pain in the ass, but there’s also a chance Shoop has lost his mojo.

The second-half adjustments on offense were great. Tennessee pounded John Kelly and let Marquez Callaway do his thing, and it paid off big time.

The defense came through when it needed to, but they really need to discover a pass rush and never let Justin Martin touch a football field again. I’m sorry, but whoever was telling the media about his improvement had to have been a relative.

Overall, the coaches came up with a win, but there was a lot to be desired in the overall game management and play-calling.

Final Grade: 2.0 (C-)

Overall Grade For Week One: 2.63 (B-)

You can look at this as either a B- or a C+ depending on what side of the fence you are on. The Vols disappointed in many areas, but looked very good at times. They also showed a ton of resiliency and heart, which is key but rare for a young team.

C’s get degrees in the end, but the University of Tennessee is full-time scholarship level at it’s lowest point. I fully expect the Vols to live up to their potential this weekend against Indiana State.

Poll

What final grade would you give the Vols for their performance against Georgia Tech?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A
    (11 votes)
  • 20%
    B
    (137 votes)
  • 56%
    C
    (378 votes)
  • 19%
    D
    (132 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (11 votes)
669 votes total Vote Now