When a team wins by a margin of 59-3, it’s usually guaranteed that they played well in all facets of the game.
For the Vols, that rang true for about three quarters on Saturday as they trounced the East Tennessee State Buccanneers. The offense did struggle for about a quarter, but a big special teams play helped get Tenneessee rolling and they never looked back.
A good performance will boost their overall GPA on the season. It’s time for this week’s final grades.
It was an encouraging start for Jarrett Guarantano and the offense. He hit a wide-open Josh Palmer for a 51-yard gain on the first drive of the game. That drive would stall, however, just a few plays later and the Vols had to settle for a field goal to give them the early 3-0 lead.
Tennessee amassed just 24 yards on ten plays over the next two drives. They were unable to create any space at all up front, reflecting a lot of the same issues that were presented against West Virginia.
The Vols entered the second quarter with (-1) rushing yards as a team. That can’t happen in SEC play or else this team will have no chance of winning any conference matchups.
But they recovered well on the way to 190 yards on the ground for the day. Guarantano and Keller Chryst both looked very good as well, hitting deep plays with great accuracy and timing.
The receivers looked great. Marquez Callaway did his usual thing, making an amazing catch on another deep ball by Guarantano in the second quarter.
This offensive line has to improve
quickly NOW and fortunately for the Vols, they have another tune-up against the UTEP Miners this Saturday. Everything else is clicking except this unit and per past seasons, that can derail the offense on any given day.
Another area for improvement would be on third down. The Vols were just 4/10 on the day - leaving much to be desired efficiency-wise.
Final Grade: 3.0 (B)
So this is what Jeremy Pruitt wants his defense to look like, eh? Well, me like.
They are fast, swarming, and physical. As the season continues to grow, so should the players - and the results will be fun to watch.
Tennessee’s linebackers were all over the place making plays while also keeping quarterback Logan Marchi in check. This was apparent when middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr. picked off Marchi in the second quarter and ran it back for six.
The Vols also got a great performance out of JUCO transfer Emmitt Gooden. He led the team with eight tackles - three of those for a loss - and a sack.
Emmitt Gooden led the Vols with 8 tackles, 3 TFLs and a sack Saturday, as the JUCO transfer has flashed as the team's most disruptive DL.— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) September 9, 2018
Pruitt: “I think the guy’s got some ability. He’s still learning how to work. When he wants to, he can be a pretty good football player." pic.twitter.com/W4CmUoBvaH
The Bucs were held 188 yards on the day and committed three turnovers, while converting 2/15 third downs.
It’s a good building block for a young defense that should improve even more when UTEP comes to town.
Final Grade: 4.0 (A)
Well, this is probably the easiest grade I’ve ever handed out. Unless the entire unit just tanks over the course of the game, you can bet that any time a punt or kick is blocked and returned for a touchdown, the special teams automatically gets an A.
Guess what? The unit didn’t tank. At all. Big props to the special teams unit for igniting the spark on this team.
Final Grade: 4.0 (A)
It’s pretty obvious that the coaches did a good job. What was most impressive was the fact that they had these kids ready to play despite the opponent. The staff also kept everyone’s head in the game during the slow start.
Even though it’s doubtful this would’ve happened, the team could have began to lose interest during the first quarter. The coaches, along with the players, remained dialed in from start to finish.
Final Grade: 4.0 (A)
Overall Grade: 3.75 (B+)
It was a very good day for Tennessee. That slow start and the fact that they couldn’t get any type of ground game going early on was the only setback. As long as they can figure out the offensive trenches, things should be in good shape for the season.