Josh Heupel and Tennessee Football put together by far their most encouraging offensive performance of the year, beating the Kentucky Wildcats 33-27. That it came on the road, when they have been known to struggle in hostile environments, is even a bigger deal. Here are five things we learned from the Vols huge victory.
Passing game renaissance continues
It’s clear that against the Alabama Crimson Tide, Josh Heupel figured out how to use Joe Milton III. He is able to open up the defense when he uses his legs, and that doesn’t include him just running. Throwing on the run is also a huge advantage, as he is superb at that. Add in Dont’e Thornton’s emergence, and this offense has its rhythm.
There were too many drive-killing plays
Despite his play, Joe Milton III killed two drives by taking bad sacks. On top of that, there was a bad holding penalty on another and a false start that turned a likely touchdown drive into a field goal. These types of issues could have cost Rocky Top in a closer game, and they can’t continue down the stretch of this season.
The Vols won the trenches…thanks to RB play
In the third quarter, Kentucky was able to make it close by winning the line of scrimmage. However, that changed in the fourth quarter. Tennessee Football relied on a healthy dose of Dylan Sampson for its touchdown drive to go up 33-24. The Vols used Jaylen Wright in the first half. Those two carried the load. Meanwhile, they held Kentucky superstar Ray Davis to under three yards a carry.
Kamal Hadden was sorely missed
Everybody who questioned Kamal Hadden owes him an apology. UT was horrendous in the secondary without him. Despite the Vols stopping the run, Devin Leary had the game of his life. Now, to be fair, many of his throws were just really good passes, but without Hadden, it certainly was worse than it would have been.
Field goal kicking was a key advantage
Press the kicking game, for here’s where the breaks are made. Gen. Robert Neyland’s sixth game maxim applied here. Tennessee Football got the advantage it needed in the fourth quarter thanks to Charles Campbell, who hit four field goals. However, the difference was he hit a 49-yarder. Kentucky kicker Alex Raynor missed a 53-yarder badly. That is why the Vols held onto their lead.