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Tennessee Football: Should Fans Be Worried About the Vol Offense?

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Josh Heupel has raised the offensive bar higher than any coach in Tennessee history.

The Vols rolled up 499 total yards, rushed for 287, scored a touchdown on seven of 13 possessions and vanquished Virginia 49-13 in the season opener.

But a survey said 46% of UT fans felt the offense was “worrisome’’ after Game One.

It would take a Jeremy Pruitt team three games to score 49 points. And UT fans are worried about the offense?

UT has scored at least 49 points in a game 14 times since the start of the 2021 season. Only Ohio State has done it more times (15).

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Yet, when Tennessee has a lull – the Vols went four straight possessions in the first half without scoring – the Vol Nation senses disaster.

Keep in mind that UT, on just three occasions in the past two seasons, has gone four possessions in a row without scoring (against Virginia and last year against Clemson and Georgia).

It wouldn’t have reached four against Virginia if Ramel Keyton hadn’t dropped a bomb from Joe Milton.

Nevertheless, the Vol Nation was ready to push the panic button when the Vols had just seven points deep into the first half.

Alas, Tennessee scored touchdowns on the final two drives of the first half and the first two drives of the second half, extending their lead over the hapless Cavaliers to 35-3.

The only drama left was whether or not Virginia would score a touchdown and whether UT prized freshman Nico Iamaleava would lead a scoring drive.

The run game was exceptional considering the Vols were without center Cooper Mays and two stalwarts from a year ago: Darnell Wright and Jerome Carvin. UT had 12 runs of at least 9 yards. Jaylin Wright averaged 9.6 yards on 12 carries. Dylan Sampson scored four touchdowns (he had six last year). And Jabari Small had 67 yards on 13 carries.

Quarterback Joe Milton had one bad series in which he had three errant throws. Otherwise, he played well: 21 of 30 for 201 yards. He also ran with more authority than a year ago, picking up 33 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns.

In his UT career, Milton has 14 touchdown passes with no interceptions. His streak of 174 passes at UT without a pick is second only to Hendon Hooker’s streak of 261. Counting his days at Michigan, Milton hasn’t thrown an interception in 206 passes.

It’s also worth noting, thanks to research by Knox News, that UT has thrown just six interceptions in 830 attempts under Josh Heupel – by far the best rate in college football. The other 130 FBS schools have thrown 2,751 picks the past three years. UT’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is 73-6 under Heupel.

Maybe you’re worried that Ramel Keyton dropped a bomb.

Maybe you’re worried that Bru McCoy had just two catches.

Maybe you’re worried that UT didn’t convert on fourth-and-1 from its own 29-yard line.

Or maybe you’re worried that Tennessee won’t score 49 points against Georgia or Alabama.

If you’re worried about the latter, I’m with you. Tennessee hasn’t scored 40 points against Georgia since 2012 and hasn’t scored 49 against the Bulldogs since 2006.

And with the exception of last year, Tennessee hasn’t scored 40 against Alabama since 2003.

So if you’re goal is to score six touchdowns against Georgia and Alabama, you should worry.

Otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy the Vols getting 49 against Virginia, probably 60 against Austin Peay this Saturday, and a plethora of points against most everyone else on the schedule.

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