Tennessee beat lowly UMass 17-13 in one of the most disappointing football games you’ll ever see. To those that paid money to see whatever the Vols and Minutemen put together for 60 minutes today: I’m sorry. I hope you find solace in whatever you do for the rest of your Saturday and weekend.
Quinten Dormady was 16-of-25 on passing for the day for 174 yards. Like the three games prior to today, Dormady wasn’t too accurate on downfield passes, but looked sharp both in the middle of the field and on short, outside throws. Guarantano (more on him later) attempted just five passes, with his only two completoins combining for -3 yards.
Butch Jones at least tried to make John Kelly the focal point of Tennessee’s offense, and Kelly rushed 19 times for 87 yards. UMass loaded the box all afternoon, never allowing Kelly to hit the line of scrimmage without a defender close by. The Vols’ offensive line did him no favors. The middle of the line was beaten for much of the game, and Dormady never had a comfortable pocket to throw.
UMass rushed for 148 yards on 33 rushes, and added just 128 passing yards. The Minutemen were clearly out-classed from a talent standpoint, but the Vols had plenty of trouble getting them off the field without the Minutemen getting some first downs first.
Yuck. Just yuck. Both teams looked lackluster all afternoon. The Vols looked lethargic on offense until the final pair of drives in the first half. Dormady was inconsistent, the run game was spotty thanks to bad line play, and the defense just couldn’t get UMass off of the field.
As for the offense… what the crap? Dormady was inconsistent while the run game struggled to do anything behind a struggling offensive line. Brandon Johnson was fantastic, but the Vols went away from him when UMass actually made things close late in the third quarter. Then came the head-scratching quarterback change.
Guarantano’s replacement of Dormady right before the fourth quarter might have made sense if Dormady was injured, but if not, why the move? While inconsistent, he at least had a passing touchdown and a rhythm with Johnson. It was obvious the offense wasn’t comfortable. Guarantano and Kelly combined for a fumble on a read play, and two drives later a snap nearly cleared Guarantano’s head and resulted in disaster. Then Dormady came back in.
Oh, yeah, and the offense managed just 58 yards in the second half. That’s what happens when the defense says “Hey, we’re going to stop you from running the ball. Good luck!” and the offense doesn’t throw the ball well.
You can’t blame some of the bending the defense did in the second half after watching three-and-out after three-and-out from the offense. The well-documented injuries had the unit thin already, and guys like Daniel Bituli and Kendal Vickers missed some snaps with stingers, forcing even more youth to play.
It really felt like Tennessee was saved by an injury to UMass’ starting quarterback. Andrew Ford left the game late in the third quarter and never returned, leaving the Minutemen with Ross Comis, who is much more of a runner and showed his lack of passing ability. Aside from a big 45-yard run before the midway point of the final quarter, the UMass offense couldn’t do much to move the ball.
It was clear today that, despite the talent advantage, Butch Jones and company couldn’t out-coach an 0-4 UMass team. We don’t know if the Vols were trying to stay vanilla to keep some looks from Georgia, but it didn’t matter. The Vols should’ve beaten the Minutemen by at least 30 points, and at times today the team in white and maroon looked like the better team. If the team plays anything similar like it did today, the Vols might not beat more than one SEC team.