Tennessee game plan: Mississippi State
By: Chandler Smith
The All Vol Call in Show
October 10, 2019
Tennessee looks to earn their first conference win of the season this weekend as they play host to an unfamiliar foe: Mississippi State. Even though they play in the same conference, the two teams are meeting for the first time since 2012, and it is the Bulldogs first trip to Knoxville since the 2008 season.
Mississippi State (3-2, 1-1) is coming off a bye week, and opens as a 6.5-point favorite.
The Bulldogs’ bye week came at a time when the two starting quarterbacks are nursing injuries.
So far this season, they have started grad-transfer Tommy Stevens 3 games, and true freshman Garrett Shrader the other 2. With Head Coach Joe Moorhead keeping his starter a secret, it’s almost certain that both will see playing time on Saturday.
The Bulldogs also bring to town the SEC’s leading rusher: Kyline Hill. The junior tailback has collected 596 yards in five games this season to go with 5 touchdowns.
What It Means
A win on Saturday will go a long way to put optimism back into the season. For a half last week, Tennessee went toe-to-toe with Georgia. With Brian Maurer starting at quarterback last week, the Vols looked entirely different. Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt has in, enough words, said that it is his job to lose. If Tennessee can pull off the upset Saturday, the season will take a major up-swing.
How Tennessee Can Win
For Tennessee to win this game, they will need to stop the run. Hill has averaged 146 yards rushing in State’s three wins. The two losses? Just 78. Sharader, in his two starts, has averaged 107 rushing yards from the quarterback position.
The Bulldogs defense isn’t close to what it was a year ago. However, they have a nose for the ball. State has forced 14 turnovers in five games. 10 of those turnovers have been by way of fumbles recovered. Ball protection is of the highest priority.
For the Vols to win on Saturday, they need to play like the team that was ahead of Georgia for most of the first half. Stopping the run and protecting the ball is the key to a victory.
If that much goes to plan, Maurer and the rest of the team can give the Vol fans a glimpse into what could be a very bright future.