It’s not everyday that the first play of a game is the turning point for a team, but in its much-needed 45-14 blowout win over the UTSA Roadrunners, Tennessee Football set the tone with just such a play. A design by Josh Heupel for Joe Milton III completely changed the offensive opportunities the rest of the way.
On the opening drive, after it had been clear that teams were playing soft coverage to take away the deep passes and shifting more toward the middle up front, questions arose as to whether or not teams were figuring out Heupel’s offense. One play was able to change all of that within the blink of an eye.
Milton kept the ball, ran to the outside and took it 81 yards to the house. That gave Tennessee Football a 7-0 lead. With that one play, the Vols’ offense was back to what it needed to be. The deep shots were there, they were able to run the ball, and SEC teams now have to adjust to what they might see.
Hendon Hooker was superb at running with the ball, but Milton has been hesitant to do the same this year. That allowed defenses to sell out to stop specific aspects of Heupel’s offense, and the Florida Gators did just that. It was long overdue that Milton finally made teams pay.
There were still some issues. Milton overthrew multiple passes, that came after a hit in which there was a missed block, pass protection struggled throughout, and UTSA made a 31-0 game a 31-14 game with them having the ball at one point in the third quarter. You could say that was another turning point.
However, Milton’s touchdown run was crucial because it wasn’t just a turning point for Tennessee Football in this game. It was a turning point for the Vols’ whole season. They have another element to the offense that should allow them to look a lot more similar to what they were last year, even if it’s not nearly as efficient.