Tennessee relied on its offense to get a win at Kroger Field on Saturday night. The run game took over for a lot of the night, but quarterback Joe Milton III had his part in the win as well.
Milton finished 18-of-21 passing for 228 yards and a touchdown. He has thrown a touchdown in 12-straight contests.
Looking back on the game, here is the good, bad and ugly from Milton’s performance in Lexington.
Good: Throwing on the run, efficiency
There is a lot of good to take away from Milton’s Saturday performance. He made several throws on the run, something we have not seen this year.
He also had a stretch where he completed 12 consecutive passes. That stretch included throws of 47, 25 and 39 yards.
“Great to see a scramble and, make the throw down football field, completions that were big,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said. “There were multiple of those that were big the way the game played out at the end. I’m proud of his continued growth and the way that he competed tonight. Run game, he was an important part as well, so good effort from him. The whole offense, continue to grow, get better. Proud of their efforts.”
Milton also made several great decisions. He slid late in the fourth quarter on a scramble to keep the clock rolling. The awareness has been questionable in the past, but Milton seemed to have a good grasp on the game on Saturday night.
In that crucial last drive, Milton was efficient and didn’t do anything to threaten the Vols’ lead.
“It was great to go out and seal the deal,” Milton said. “I was getting the ball to open guys and making things happen. I wanted to give my opportunities to make plays.”
Milton declined the motion that sealing the win over Kentucky was the biggest moment of his career. It may not have been, but it was a highlight of his season thus far.
“I’ve said the whole time and I’ll say every day that Joe will do anything he can to help this team win games,” running back Dylan Sampson said. “That’s Joe. That’s who he is.”
Bad: Holding the ball too long, trust from staff
Milton got sacked two times on Saturday night. Not much, but the number could have easily been zero.
Both of the sacks Milton took were due to him holding the ball a very long time. On one, he sat in the pocket too long, and the other he barely was unable to escape.
A trend this season has been if the first option or two is covered, Milton has struggled. It was less on Saturday than in past contests, but it was evident a couple of times.
On top of that, it seemed the coaching staff lacked faith in Milton at times. The run game was working, but with the defense struggling, it would make more sense to take deep shots.
None was more evident than the end of the second half. The Vols had seven seconds left in field goal range. Instead of taking a do-or-die shot for a touchdown, Heupel settled for the field goal.
Charles Campbell hit it with time to spare, but it raise the questions about the Vols’ staff and their faith in Milton.
“We still had time-outs, we’re far enough back,” Heupel said. “Just didn’t trust all of it playing out. You can take a shot for sure. But in the situation of it felt like we needed to get the three and that’s why.”