Tennessee defeated Massachusetts at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, 17-13. It wasn’t pretty, and the Vols were far from covering the 28-point spread. But the win improved Tennessee to 3-1 on the season, as the Vols get set for the heart of SEC play.
The Good: Seven sacks by Tennessee. Massachusetts led the nation in sacks allowed, at 26 through four games, a truly horrid number. But, remember, the Vols had just one sack against Georgia Tech and Indiana State combined. It was a good day for the Vols’ defensive line, which completely took over the game by the fourth quarter. The crowd. Sure, a lot of them went home at halftime and most of them were gone by the fourth quarter, but a total of 95,342 showed up for today’s game — about 10,000 more than many folks expected to show up.
The Bad: The effort. Aside from the defensive line, very few players on the Tennessee roster seemed excited to play football today, and it showed. The Vols’ disinterested approach allowed UMass to hang around and have a shot at winning the game. The quarterback play. Quinten Dormady was 17 of 27 through the air, but made a number of bad throws and had back-foot throws that have become his penchant. The offense was dormant in the second half. That led Butch Jones to insert Jarrett Guarantano, which elicited a huge cheer from the Tennessee crowd, but Guarantano’s play was far worse than Dormady’s. Jones’ unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It’s a new rule; coaches can’t be on the field of play and question the officials or they’re going to earn a penalty more quickly. And Jones was on the field during a time out. He called it a “misunderstanding,” but also admitted that the team needed to be fired up . . . which essentially means he intended to do what he did. But did it really help to “fire up the team” when the penalty moved the ball from the 12-yard-line to the six-yard-line and gave UMass an automatic first down? The Minutemen scored on the next play.
The Ugly: The weather. It was the coolest start to September on record in East Tennessee, until summer decided to show up again. Today’s game was one of the hottest late-September games on record, and Shields-Watkins Field was sweltering, which contributed mightily to the 95,342’s early exit. Still, it could’ve been worse. Even as the game was ending, a thunderstorm was developing over north Knoxville, complete with heavy rain and lightning. Can you imagine that awful game being delayed by lightning and lasting even longer? Horrors! The boobirds. Coaches are fair game; they’re being paid millions to do what they do. But booing student-athletes is never acceptable. It’s one thing when it’s their fellow students doing the booing; kids will be kids. But when 40-somethings in the stands are booing the effort of 19-year-old sophomores, that’s just bad. Tennessee fans booed Dormady heartily, and also booed the kickers. Not a good look. If you can’t refrain from booing players for any other reason, think about the recruits sitting in the north end zone.