The Day After
Tennessee survives for win number four as the Vols beat Charlotte 14-3. We review the Vol victory with The Day After.
HOT AND NOT
Kyle Phillips – Phillips had a 4 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and two pass break ups. The seniors timing was really good as well. One of his tackles for loss came with Charlotte inside the redzone and held the 49ers to a field goal. His sack was nearly a safety and one of his pass break ups prevented a completion on a screen that would have been a big game. Phillips is having his best year and had a big game on Saturday.
Marquez Callaway – Callaway followed up his 9 catch performance last weekend with 3 catches for 30 yards and an 82 yard punt return for a touchdown. Callaway finished the day with 128 all purpose yards.
Dominique Wood-Anderson – The tight end had his biggest day with 3 catches for 53 yards. There were plenty of expectations early in the year for Wood-Anderson but he got off to a slow start. Prior to Saturday, Wood-Anderson only had 7 catches for 55 yards for the season. He's getting a better grasp of the offense and Saturday was certainly more involved.
The offensive line – Jarrett Guarantano was sacked twice and he was knocked down repeatedly. But that's wasn't the biggest issue with the offensive front was their inability to block in the run game. The offensive front were either whipped physically or busted and didn't get a hat on a hat. What ever the case, the run game was horrible. Counting the sack yards, Tennessee had 20 yards rushing and had negative yards rushing with 4:13 to play in the game. Charlotte finished with 9 tackles for loss and on the year now, the offense has given up 75 tackles for loss.
Offensive playcalling – After having their best day last Saturday at South Carolina, this Saturday was a head scratcher. Jarrett Guarantano completed 76% of his throws going 16 of 21. He was 8 of 10 in the first half. But Tennessee called 24 runs in the game including more runs than passes in the first half when everyone in the stadium knew Tennessee couldn't run it against the Charlotte defense. It was surprising that the Vols didn't throw it more in the first half and put the game away and work on the run game in the second half.
Injuries – They are mounting for this team. Ty Chandler isn't healthy, neither is Jauan Jennings. Marcus Tatum couldn't finish the game. Chance Hall can't make it through a full game. Trevon Flowers is still out as is Micah Abernathy. And they are obviously missing guys like Trey Smith, Jonathan Kongbo, and Brandon Kennedy who won't be back this year. The Vols have little depth when the roster is at full strength and that depth is certainly being challenged with the mounting injuries.
Marquez Callaway punt return – Thanks to a penalty, Charlotte had to re-kick and Callaway made them pay with an 82 yard punt return for a touchdown. Callaway is did a really good job of sprinting up and fielding the the low kick. Fielding it at full speed, Callaway had clear sailing down the sideline.
A running back carry – Tennessee had 21 running plays and 11 of them went for zero or negative yards. There was simply no where to run for the running backs in the run game at any point in the game.
3rd and goal at the 3 for Charlotte – Tennessee's defense got off the field as Evan Shirreffs' pass to Chris Phillips was high and incomplete. Charlotte had to settle for a field goal which made the halftime score 14-3 instead of 14-7.
4th and 1 defensive stop at the Vol 28 – With just under 5 minutes to play, Charlotte had the football at the Tennessee 28. Shy Tuttle got penetration causing the running back to run into the tight end disrupting the play. Daniel Bituli cleaned it up and Charlotte turned it over on downs essentially ending the game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
9 – Number of tackles for loss given up by the Vol offense on Saturday. Tennessee has now given up 75 TFL's this season.
77 – Number of yards given up by Jeremy Pruitt's defense in the second half. The Vols had 3 second half sacks and only 22 total yards rushing.
10.5 -- Average yard to go on 3rd down for the Vols offense. Tennessee converted just 4 of 12 first downs and only 2 of their last 9. Eight of those 12 third downs were 3rd and 10+.
51% – Percentage of Tennessee's offense that came on 3 plays of 20+ yards. Tennessee had just 94 yards total offense on the other 44 snaps
This was a Daniel Bituli kind of game. Play it in the box with a heavy dose of the run game. Bituli certainly thrives in that style of game. The sophomore linebacker led the team with 13 tackles including a tackle for loss and a 4th down stop. Since the half against Alabama (10 quarters), Bituli has 26 tackles. In the first 6 games, Bituli had just 31 tackles.
Bituli will have to be big next week with a run heavy Kentucky team coming to Knoxville.
BIGGEST QUESTION/CONCERN MOVING FORWARD
After thinking Tennessee had found something in the run game and with an offensive line last week at South Carolina, Saturday told a different story.
Tennessee's offensive line was at times confused and made mental busts and at other times were just flat whipped.
With a physical Kentucky defense coming to town as well as a big defensive front from Missouri, the concern moving forward is the Tennessee offensive line. The offensive coaches shuffled the offensive line with multiple combinations trying to find something that works. Nothing worked as 11 of the 21 running plays went for 0 or negative yards. Four of the 10 positive rushes came on the Vols final offensive drive of the game.
Jarrett Guarantano was again sacked twice and was repeatedly hit while throwing the football.
If Tennessee is going to have a chance to get to six wins, they offensive line must play drastically better than they did on Saturday.