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September 26 2017, 04:01 | Van Peters
Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports
He struck a wait-and-see tone with the defense and had concerns about the kicking game.
But his inauspicious beginning was trumped by a clutch finish as Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit for a 42-41 double-overtime victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday night. It may prove an unreliable sample. The better team lost.
Quarterback TaQuon Marshall was better than anyone could have reasonably hoped. The defense ran hot, then cold.
Bituli kept his word, finishing with a game-high 23 tackles (10 solo), which is the most by a UT defender since 1988. We knew that this was going to be a game that you had to show some resolve and some grit, and you had to play complementary football. He corralled Marshall, who passed the ball in desperation as he was going to the ground.
He finished with three catches for 17 yards and was expected to lead the Volunteers' young corps of wide outs.
"We'd set up, and we'd run a bunch of two-point plays out of that web thing, a pick screen out of the thing, so we were going to bring the motion, and they took the safety over there", Johnson said, easing into his football jargon, and as you listen, keep this in mind: This was supposed to work. All that was left for him was to actually play. "Try a different kicker, I guess", said Johnson, who'd deployed the walk-on Shawn Davis on Monday.
After a wild ending to its opener against Georgia Tech, Tennessee received some bad news. And, if not for the second of two fumbles that denied Tech its due, this could have been one of the coach's greatest nights. For the last few years, Georgia Tech had one of the most reliable kickers in the Power 5 in Harrison Butker. "He was running guys over".
"If you're not winning the records don't matter", Marshall said. But a comment made August 21 reflected uncertainty. Dormady capped the possession with a 50-yard pass to Callaway, trimming the Yellow Jackets' lead, 28-21. The Vols won a thriller in which they did not take their first lead until the second overtime.
Not to mention, make his first field goal unit appearance and block the potential go-ahead field goal, as time expired in regulation.
Tennessee went ahead for the first time all night on its final touchdown and PAT. Yes, it's only one game. Sure, defending the triple option is hard, but the best times to face it are during bowl games and the first game of the season - when you have plenty of time to prepare.
A shortage of big plays was among the chief failings of the Jackets' defense last season, particularly through the first eight games. "(We) reversed out and tried to get outside of it. Callaway carried the Vols passing game and got the big orange faithful all excited.
Johnson might have wished his worries about the kicking game were accurate. While he made all of his point after attempts, his first two field goal attempts were atrocious. Johnson asked. "Yes. Will they?"
In conjunction with the GOLDOUT game, Georgia Tech's official GOLDOUT t-shirts are now available for purchase. Benson's (5'9/211) long run on the night was only 15 yards, but he was consistently picking up four to five yards for the Yellow Jackets and helping move the chains.
While a home underdog is always tempting, Tennessee has enough firepower returning that we're siding with the Vols. Look for Jauan Jennings to have a breakout season, and get started with a good outing against Georgia Tech. Jacksonville State is the nation's No. 5-ranked team in the FCS.