Vols flog Falcons in lackluster effort, showing there is still work to be done
By: John Dunn (Managing Editor/Founder/Host)
The All Vol Call in Show
It was a near-perfect start for the Tennessee Volunteers in first-year head coach Josh Heupel's inaugural game. In their first two drives of the game, the Vols hit paydirt. After averaging no more than seven points in the first quarter of any game in 2020, it was a welcome sight for a well-filled Neyland Stadium to see.
However, things began to slow in the second quarter as the Vols managed only eight yards. In their defense, the Falcons held the ball the majority of the quarter after finding some success through the air.
Tennessee made some second half adjustments and added three touchdowns in the back end of the game to pull away and secure a 38-6 victory in Josh Heupel's debut from the precipice of Rocky Top.
Tennessee took 12 plays to go 67-yards in 2:59 to strike quickly for the first touchdown of the game, taking a 7-0 lead. After holding the Falcons defensively, the Vols, again, wasted no time in finding the end zone, this time in eight plays, again, for 67-yards, in 2:01, to take a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, things began to change.
Bowling Green inevitably worked their way onto the scoreboard, connecting on a field goal to draw the score back to 14-3 early in the second quarter. After limiting Tennessee's offense on the ensuing drive, the Falcons started getting things going through the air, with some ground game sprinkled in, as they worked their way down the field.
What looked like a promising drive for Bowling Green was nixed by a sack by Tyler Baron on a 3rd-and-long, forcing the Falcons to attempt a 50-yard field goal with 1:20 remaining in the first half. After connecting on the long field goal, Bowling Green cut the Tennessee lead to 14-6.
To start the third quarter, Tennessee wasted no time in breaking the plane, as Joe Milton squeaked into the end zone for the second time of the night, stiff-arming a defender on a four-yard touchdown run, giving the Vols a 21-6 lead after a successful PAT.
After halting the Falcons' offense on the ensuing drive, Tyion Evans earned his first touchdown in a Tennessee uniform, finding the checkerboard from 19-yards out, giving the Vols a 28-6 lead.
The Vols froze the Bowling Green drive on the following possession, but failed to capitalize after regaining possession, going four-and-out, with a turnover on downs, allowing the Falcons another chance to cut into the 22-point lead. However, Tennessee's defense held, allowing them to regain possession to wind-down the final seconds of the third quarter.
Hampered by penalties while inside the red zone, the following Tennessee drive fell flat, forcing the Vols to settle for their first field goal of the game, a 43-yarder, extending their lead to 31-6 with less than 10-minutes remaining in the game.
Finally, with just under six minutes remaining in the game, Milton found Cedric Tillman in the end zone for a 40-yard dart of a passing touchdown, extending the Tennessee lead to 38-6. The throw was on a rope (a straight-line), but was an ill-thrown pass that Tillman had to re-adjust to, and make an athletic play in order to catch.
In the final three minutes of the game, Hendon Hooker was inserted into the offense. After fumbling the ball inside the red zone on a bobbled hand-off to Wright, the game was effectively ended with :35 seconds remaining, as the Falcons regained possession, spending the final moments of the game with their rushing attack, allowing the Vols to claim a 38-6 victory.
Although the win was lackluster, there were flashes of promising growth under Heupel. The Tennessee running backs looked good, the defensive line looked better than expected, albeit against sub-par competition. All-in-all, the Vols were favored by 35.5 points, and won by 32. A 30-point victory is never a bad thing, no matter the level of competition.
Tennessee will have a much tougher opponent next week as they take on the Pittsburgh Panthers on the 20th anniversary 9-11 in Neyland Stadium at noon, in what has been dubbed the Johnny Majors Classic, named for the legendary coach that played at Tennessee, and coached at both schools.