Week 1

Tennessee Survives Appalachian State: 5 Things That Matter


Tennessee survived Appalachian State in a tough 20-13 overtime win. What are the 5 things that matter in the scary opener for the national title contender?


Contact @PeteFiutak

Just take it and move on.

Tennessee looked awful.

The defense struggled too often to slow down Marcus Cox and the Appalachian State attack, but it held firm when it needed to.

The offense couldn’t seem to make a play early on, but it came up with the one big 67-yard scoring play to Josh Malone in the fourth quarter just when it seemed like nothing was going right.

There were plenty of breaks with a missed field goal and whiffed extra point from the Mountaineers, and the Jalen Hurd recovered fumble in overtime might have saved the season before it could get started, but it’s a win over a veteran team that might win the Sun Belt title.

It’s certainly not what Vol fans were looking for after all the hype and all the expectations, but it’s still a win. It’s the opening weekend of the season, and the team will grow and get better from here. Just take it and, as Butch Jones said, don’t apologize.

Yes, Tennessee won a close game.

It’s hard to find too many silver linings in a win over a Sun Belt team – even a good one like Appalachian State – but would 2015 Tennessee have come up with this? It’s the team that couldn’t generate a fourth down stop against Florida, and couldn’t hold a big lead or close against Oklahoma. The Mountaineers aren’t last year’s Gators or Sooners, but teams feed off of times when it can just find a way to get the job done. It’s Week One. There’s no preseason and there are no warm-ups. Judge the Vols more on what’s coming next against Virginia Tech.

However …

Appalachian State should’ve been able to close this.

It’s not that the Mountaineers played it totally close to the vest late when it had a drive to try for the game-winning field goal, but it wasn’t able to crank up the tempo enough to get a possible attempt at the kick.

Michael Rubino didn’t get the field goal the team needed, and he didn’t hit the extra point that would’ve turned out to be the game-winning score, but Appalachian State didn’t lose because of the missed kicks. It didn’t keep the chains moving, and it seemed to try stringing out the game more than going for it. It was a missed opportunity the team has to try learning from.

Joshua Dobbs has to be better.

He’s the very smart, veteran leader of an experienced team – Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs has to be far stronger.

He only ran nine times and never got free outside of a key overtime run to keep the drive alive, but his fumble into the end zone almost cost the team the game.

While he connected on the 67-yard touchdown pass to Josh Malone, he only hit 15 of his other 28 passes for 125 yards with a pick.

If the Vols are going to really and truly turn into a player, Dobbs can’t have another game like this against a strong team.

What Does This All REALLY Mean?

Don’t jump off the bandwagon quite yet.

The Tennessee offensive line didn’t generate much of a push – Jalen Hurd had to work for his 110 yards – and the offense as a whole was spotty, and the defense allowed over four yards per carry, but this might have been the wake-up call.

At least that’s what the Vols are hoping for.

With the Bristol game against Virginia Tech up next, a good Ohio team that’ll probably win the MAC East to follow, and with Florida coming up at the end of September, Tennessee obviously has to play far, far better.

It can’t play like this again and get out of September unscathed.

It can’t play like this again if it has any real hope of being in the SEC title hunt.