After a slow start against the ETSU Buccaneers last week, one of the main goals for the Vols this week was to get off to a fast start against the UTEP Miners.
It was a mixed bag of results early on in the game. Tennessee’s offense was able to create plays and drive down the field, but turnovers and penalties killed drives and left plenty of points off the board for the Vols.
Fortunately, Jeremy Pruitt’s defense came to play again this week and kept the Miners at bay whenever the Vols’ offense made mistakes.
After a quick offensive possession on the opening drive, the Vols were able to find their way inside the Miners’ 10-yard line after a good series of plays that included a nice pass from Jarrett Guarantano to Marquez Callaway on a 4th-and-3.
But a chop block penalty on offensive linemen Drew Richmond and Jerome Carvin took the Vols out of the redzone. A delay of game penalty pushed them further back and all of a sudden it was 3rd-and-goal from the UTEP 25-yard line. Fortunately, Brent Cimaglia hit the 38-yard field goal attempt to give the Vols the first lead of the game, 3-0.
The defense held the Miners to a punt on the next possession and Guarantano once again found sophomore Josh Palmer for a 53-yard reception. It was Palmer’s second reception of over 50 yards on the season and it took the Vols all the way down to the UTEP 12-yard line.
Madre London was able to rumble down to the three, but fumbled while trying to extend the ball over the goal line. UTEP recovered and the Vols tried to challenge the ruling but it was upheld.
At that point, the Vols had made two trips inside UTEP’s 10-yard line and only had three points to show for it.
But at least UTEP had terrible field position after London’s fumble since it was recovered at the two-yard line. Tennessee’s defense bailed out the offense yet again after they forced a three-and-out that was keyed by a nice tackle for loss by Baylen Buchanan on second down.
Callaway returned the ensuing punt for 11 yards down to the Miners’ 36-yard line. Guarantano then hit Brandon Johnson over the middle for a 29-yard gain and Tim Jordan scored the game’s first touchdown on the next play to increase the lead, 10-0.
TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE!— Caleb Noe (@wvltCaleb) September 15, 2018
Tim Jordan punches it in to give the Vols a 10-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/yS0YQBlFfI
It looked UT finally had some momentum rolling after Locksley overthrew a wide open receiver and a Daniel Bituli sack forced another three-and-out - but a muffed punt by Callaway gave the ball right back to the Miners at the Vols’ 33-yard line.
The football gods must’ve been wearing orange on the next drive for the defense, because the Miners just missed out on a scoring opportunity. A holding call, a great deflection by Shawn Shamburger, and a false start took UTEP out of scoring position.
If it weren’t for the penalties and poor execution, there is no doubt the Vols’ 10-point lead would’ve shrank to just a one-possession game.
More penalties and a sack forced the Vols to punt on their next offensive possession. Tennessee had a chance to execute a two-minute drive before the half, but Pruitt decided to bring in Keller Chryst and the offense couldn’t get anything going before the end of the second quarter.
Whatever what said at halftime, well, it worked. After holding UTEP to another three-and-out, Ty Chandler used his vision and speed to bust off an 81-yard touchdown run on a toss to the left side and make it a three-score game, 17-0.
The teams traded possessions a few times in the third quarter before Tennessee was able to generate a touchdown off an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ate up over five minutes off the clock that bled into the fourth quarter.
Guarantano found Jauan Jennings for a quick 4-yard touchdown pass that gave the Vols a 24-0 lead. It was Jennings’ first touchdown since the 2016 season.
The defense took care of the rest, holding UTEP to zero points as the offense ran out the rest of the clock. Even though the score could’ve been higher, Tennessee comes out with a pretty dominate win right before they kick off a brutal five-game stretch of SEC play.
Stats from the game:
- The Vols recorded their fifth play of 50 yards or more this season. They only had four plays of 50+ yards in all of 2017.
- There were a ton of offensive yards, but not many points. Penalties, turnovers, and third down inefficiency were the reasons why. Tennessee was a dismal 3/11 on third down, were (-2) in turnover margin, and finished with eight penalties for 65 yards.
- After their first third down conversion on the second offensive drive of the game, the Vols didn’t convert a single third down until a little over 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
- Ty Chandler was by far and away the game’s best player. He led the Vols with 158 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. The yardage is a career-high for the talented back.
- Tennessee’s offense finished with 345 yards on the ground. The defense allowed just 134 yards and 2.63 yards per play.