Tennessee escaped Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a double overtime victory over Georgia Tech on Monday.
Just five days later, Tennessee will play its first game in Neyland Stadium this season against FCS opponent Indiana State. Saturday will be the first meeting between Tennessee and Indiana State, but the Sycamores’ head coach has several ties to coaches on the Vols’ sideline.
Curt Mallory is in his first year as head coach of Indiana State. Previously, Mallory was a defensive backs coach at Central Michigan in 2001, when Butch Jones was on the same staff as offensive coordinator. Jones called Mallory “a close friend” on the Vol Calls radio show Wednesday. Mallory also served as the defensive backs coach at Michigan from 2011-2014 under head coach Brady Hoke, who is now Tennessee’s defensive line coach.
Indiana State is located in Terre Haute, Ind. The Sycamores play in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is also home to FCS powerhouses North Dakota State and Youngstown State.
Indiana State went 4-7 last year and has not had a winning season since 2014.
Indiana State started the season 0-1 after a 22-20 loss to Eastern Illinois. EIU scored the go-ahead touchdown with just three seconds remaining in the game.
ISU played two quarterbacks - Isaac Harker and Cade Sparks - but neither played particularly well, combining to go 7-19 for 133 yards and one touchdown. The Sycamores ran the ball on 43 of 62 plays.
ISU’s defense held Eastern Illinois to 278 yards of total offense, but did allow the Panthers to go 69 yards on 11 plays during the drive which produced EIU’s game-winning touchdown.
RB LeMonte Booker - After missing the 2016 season with a torn ACL, Booker made his presence felt in his 2017 debut. Booker rushed 31 times for 154 yards and a touchdown in Indiana State’s season opener.
This one should be simple. Indiana State is an FCS team traveling to Neyland Stadium to play an SEC team.
ISU played last Thursday and has thus had eight days of rest compared to Tennessee’s four, but sheer talent should win out in this one. Expect the Vols to get up early and be able to get plenty of reps for some guys down the depth chart.