A win is a win, right? Meh. I guess. I’ll be honest, I hated just about everything from Tennessee’s win today aside from the consistent pass rush from the defensive line. The first half was bad, the second half wasn’t much better. One could argue this was the worst game they’ve played offensively under Josh Heupel. In a game that saw the Vols favored by 48.5 points, Tennessee failed to score four touchdowns and ended up beating the Governors 30-13, but the game felt much, much closer than that throughout.
Here are five key takeaways No. 9 Tennessee’s win against Austin Peay in the home opener.
Defense might be pretty good.
I get it. They’ve played two bad offenses to start, but Tennessee’s pass rush has been absolutely disgusting the first two weeks of the season. After holding Virginia to a miserable 5/18 on third down last week, Tennessee held Austin Peay to the exact same third down conversion rate today. Their pass rush was ridiculous today, tallying eight sacks and 14 (?!) tackles for loss. Credit to Tim Banks and the rest of the defensive staff, they’ve had these boys ready to play for the first two weeks of the season, and it certainly shows.
Holy Hell Aaron Beasley
Speaking of defensive performances, it would be a sin to not single out Aaron Beasley tonight. Dude had prime real estate in the Governor’s backfield with two sacks and five tackles for a loss. Beasley ended up finishing the game with nine total tackles and was a major reason for the defense’s success this evening.
These Slow Starts Are Concerning.
Tennessee has played two bad teams for far. In the first half of both games, they are only outscoring opponents 27-10, scoring only 13 points in the first quarter so far. For reference, Tennessee averaged 12.96 points in the first quarter last year. As a team that runs an up-tempo offense, it’s crucial that they keep their defense in a position to succeed early. I understand it’s only been two games, but this is a trend I’d like to see stopped in it’s tracks next week against Florida.
Wide Receiver Play Needs to Be Better
I commented on this last week, but the issues were even more glaring today. Ramel Keyton has been disappointing to say the least - his game included a holding penalty, a drop, and a fumble. But the issues don’t just stop at Keyton, Squirrel White has struggled to create separation this year, Bru McCoy has had a case of the dropsies, and the receiving core accrued multiple penalties during the bubble screen festival that took place today. Tennessee’s offense is at it’s best when they can push the ball vertically down field, and so far they haven’t been able to do that. Frankly, they haven’t even been close. Some of it is on Milton, but a lot of it is on the receivers.
Special Teams Bounced Back Nicely
After a suspect performance against Virginia, it’s good to see Jackson Ross have a nice game today. The announcers love to point out that he’s ambidextrous, I personally don’t care what foot he kicks it with as long as he limits shanks and doesn’t put the defense in bad positions. As for Charles Campbell, in a game where they only won by 17, all of those field goals were important, especially when you consider Austin Peay had fourth and goal from the 2 yard line at the end of the game. Special teams is too often forgotten, they were great today.
Running backs looked great today, especially Jaylen Wright. It’s hard not to be impressed with his play, even if it is against lackluster competition.