If you’re a fan of sloppy, defensive-minded football, then yesterday’s Tennessee game was the perfect game for you. In what seemed like a game that neither team actually wanted to win, Tennessee was able to hold on to beat the Aggies and maintain control of their own destiny in the SEC. Lot of things to improve on heading into to Tuscaloosa, but a win is a win, I suppose. Here are five key takeaways from Tennessee’s win over Texas A&M.
The Passing Game Stinks
If you asked me, “Hey, Christian. Would you rather have to rewatch every passing play from the Tennessee game yesterday or eat hot glue?” — I’m not entirely sure which form of punishment I would select. Halfway through the season, I think it’s safe to say Tennessee’s passing attack is a liability at worst and grossly inconsistent at best. I’m not sure whether Heupel doesn’t trust Milton, or Milton doesn’t trust his receivers (which has admittedly been not good this year) but what I am sure of is that Tennessee is not going to beat any team worth a damn with *checks notes* 100 passing yards while only completing 50% of passes. Tennessee has a gauntlet of games coming up, and if they want to stand in chance in most of them, they’ll need to be able to throw the football.
The Front Seven is Very Good
There’s really not much more I can say about Tennessee’s front seven that hasn’t already said. They entered the game third in the country is sacks and they continued to wreak havoc against A&M. While they only totaled two sacks yesterday, they were consistently hitting/disrupting Max Johnson, and when they didn’t, he was running for his life. They face a tougher test next week against dual-threat quarterback Jalen Milroe, but if there’s one thing Tennessee has been able to count on this year, it’s been the front seven making plays.
Jaylen Wright is Very Good at Football
Texas A&M entered yesterday’s game with one of the best rushing defenses in the country, let alone the SEC. Jaylen Wright did not care. It feels like every week I’m complimenting this guy or mentioning how integral his was in a victory for Tennessee and yesterday was obviously no different. His longest run was only 23 yards, but he just consistently found holes, and capitalized. Finishing the day with 136 yards on only 17 carries against a highly respected run defense, when they couldn’t get anything going through the air is special. Jaylen Wright is continuing to show us all he’s just that, special.
Special Teams Was Good, Dee Williams Was Electric
If you told me at any point in the last two and a half years that a Josh Heupel-led offense would score as many touchdowns in a game as the special teams, I’d call you a moron. But that was the case with yesterday’s game. When they consistently struggled to generate sustainable drives, or finish them in the end zone, special teams came up huge, whether it was flipping the field on punts, making field goals, or scoring one of Tennessee’s two touchdowns. Dee Williams has become must watch TV whenever the ball is in his hands, and it’s good to see the third phase of the game step up when the offense wasn’t having their best day.
Too Many Penalties
Stop me if you’ve heard this before this year, but Tennessee’s offensive line had drive killing penalties multiple times in this game (don’t actually stop please continue reading and comment, it’s good for the algorithm). Tennessee has now played six games this year and has been the more penalized team in five of those games — the one game where they weren’t the more penalized team was against UTSA, where both teams had 5 penalties for 40 yards. Some people might say the refs are bad and complain about it. Other people might say that this team is either undisciplined, constantly out of position, or both. It’s frustrating as all hell to watch, and it’s something they need to get cleaned up.