That’s more like it.
Tennessee wiped the floor with East Tennessee State 59-3 inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday night, earning new coach Jeremy Pruitt his first ever win in orange.
The Vols got off to a slow start and led just 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, then came a nearly hour-long weather delay. Something seemed to spark Tennessee during that delay because they came out and subsequently blew the doors off of ETSU for the rest of the contest.
After the lightning moved out of the area, UT turned on the afterburners and finished with 414 yards of offense, one passing touchdown, and five rushing touchdowns. Jarrett Guarantano looked good enough at quarterback during the roughly 1.75 quarters that he played (8/13, 154 yards passing), and then we got to see plenty of transfer backup Keller Chryst.
Chryst racked up just three throws but he completed all three and one of those passes was a 50-yard touchdown toss to Jordan Murphy.
The running game is where UT really flexed some muscle against ETSU. Sophomore Tim Jordan put up 65 yards on the ground, freshman Jeremy Banks had a coming out party and posted 62 yards along with two touchdowns, and grad transfer Madre London added 47 yards and another two touchdowns.
The Vols’ defense obviously stunted the Buccaneers, allowing just 197 yards of offense. Darrin Kirkland Jr. (who looked like his old self again) and freshman Bryce Thompson each grabbed an interception (Kirkland went for six points with his pick).
If I have any real criticism it’s that UT still lacked a serious, consistent pass rush. ETSU threw the ball 26 times and the Vols’ defensive line came up with one sack that was credited to Emmitt Gooden. It wasn’t an awful effort but it’s not like ETSU has some powerful offensive front. Quarterback pressure is going to be a big key when facing SEC offenses in the next few weeks and so far, I still haven’t seen defensive line play that will match up well with many in-conference teams.
And I guess it really goes without saying, but despite the solid run game, Tennessee’s offensive line still needs A LOT of work before it’s to the point where it needs to be.
Though on the whole, I just can’t complain much about this one. Pruitt and Company absolutely dismantled ETSU. It’s that simple.
But at the same time, it’s just ETSU. They are not even in the same stratosphere as some of the competition the Vols have on the horizon. So, Tennessee needs to take the win, be happy about it, and keep working like heck to get ready for the Gators on September 22nd.
Running backs A
Wide receivers A
Offensive line C+
Defensive line B-
Defensive Backs B+
Special teams A