Defensive scheme was much more aggressive for Tennessee football.
Obviously, the story in this game was how the Tennessee football defense looked dramatically different from last week. The Vols allowed the South Carolina Gamecocks to score on nine of 10 non-end-of-half drives in their 63-38 loss to them last week.
This time, they held the Vanderbilt Commodores to 0 points and 252 yards. Key was Jeremy Banks being back in there and Tim Banks calling a lot more stunts and blitzes. That resulted in 13 tackles for a loss and three sacks as a team, forcing more bad throws.
Running backs stole the show.
The scoring for the Vols in this game all came down to all of the running backs. Jabari Small had 11 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Jaylen Wright had an insane five carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Small had a three-yard score on the opening drive and a 52-yard run to open the second half. Wright had a 50-yard score and 83-yard score. Then Dylan Sampson came in and ran it 12 times for 132 yards and a touchdown, including an 80-yard run.
Joe Milton III’s accuracy issues remain.
He deserves credit for a 61-yard pass to Jalin Hyatt to set up the Vols’ first touchdown drive. However, outside of that, the issues that plagued Joe Milton III when he first started for the Vols last year were still on display.
Back in due to Hendon Hooker’s season-ending injury last week, Milton was 11-of-21 for 147 yards and a touchdown. He missed at least two touchdown passes, though, and it’s why the unit stalled for a while in the first half of the game.
Third down offense was horrendous
This builds off of Milton’s issues with Tennessee football, but the Vols did not do well on third down in this game. They were 0-of-6 on the day. Some of them were incompletions by Milton, as we have mentioned.
However, there were also issues with short-yardage plays. Princeton Fant had a touchdown run on 4th and goal because UT failed on 3rd and goal. Small failed to convert on two short-yardage runs. Those were not common all year, so this is a concern to a degree.
Dee Williams had his breakout game.
He’s been knocking on the door for weeks, and in this game, Dee Williams finally made the big play. Williams had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown to break the game open in the first half. However, he wasn’t done.
Williams also had a 19-yard return. He actually finished with an average of 32 yards a return on three returns. Then came a huge play he made on a fake punt by Vanderbilt. The fake punt worked, but Williams came in and forced a fumble, which Tennessee football recovered.
Performance by Tennessee football was clean.
Not only did Tennessee football force and recover a fumble. They didn’t have any turnovers on their own. That was one part of the clean performance, but the other part was due to how they were on penalties.
The Vols finished the game with just five penalties and surrendered just 35 yards on them. That’s by far their best outing of the year. Given the fact that they did it with most of their secondary out, limitations on their line and a new quarterback, they deserve tons of credit.