It was necessarily exciting, but the Tennessee Vols did exactly what they needed to do against UAB on Saturday night.
They left Neyland Stadium with a 30-7 win.
Redshirt freshman quarterback JT Shrout received the start for the Volunteers, but it was Jarrett Guarantano who received the most snaps for Tennessee in the win.
While the Guarantano led offense did enough to secure the convincing win, it was the defense who really made a statement against the Blazers.
Sophomore defensive back Bryce Thompson set a career high with three interceptions, while senior defensive back Nigel Warrior led the team with six tackles.
UAB rushed for only 63 yards, compared to 121 rushing yards for the Vols (including 85 yards and a touchdown from Ty Chandler).
Progress doesn’t have to be pretty
Tennessee might’ve cruised to a victory on Saturday night, but it wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty.
The Vols were 5-of-13 on third downs. They passed for only 181 yards (compared to 174 passing yards for UAB)
But at the end of the day, a win is a win. The Vols are now two games away, with three games left to play, from their first bowl game appearance since 2016.
Compared to where UT was at the start of September (when some folks weren’t even sure the Vols could beat UAB), this is progress.
Staying healthy in November
Tennessee emerged from their matchup against UAB relatively healthy (they didn’t even have to play their best quarterback, Brian Maurer).
While I’m sure Jeremy Pruitt wanted to see more life from his offense, he also has to be happy knowing his was able to dominate the scoreboard without having to sacrifice Maurer’s health (especially after the true freshman suffered multiple head injuries in recent weeks).
Moving forward, I think we’ll see a more aggressive Tennessee offense. In this matchup, however, the Vols didn’t do any more than they needed to do. And there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as they don’t carry that same attitude into their matchup next weekend with Kentucky.
The Vols still have a shot at winning seven games in 2019. In a sense, their season begins next Saturday night in Lexington against the Wildcats.
Buckle up, it’s about to get fun.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports