Recap: Akron at Tennessee
Tennessee Stat Book
Tennessee proved it could come from behind Saturday night. It also proved it could give up 23 first-half points to a program that had lost 24 of its previous 27 games.
The latter probably resonated more than the former with UT fans leaving Neyland Stadium after their team's 47-26 victory over Akron.
Maybe the Vols were suffering a Florida hangover. Or perhaps they were shrewdly strategizing to make fifth-ranked Georgia overconfident for next Saturday's game in Athens.
Never mind the explanation. The Vols hardly look ready for what's ahead — four consecutive games against teams currently ranked in the Top 25.
UT managed to tie the game 23-all just before halftime, took the lead for good with 6:47 left in the third quarter, held the Zips without a touchdown in the second half and piled up 33 first downs and 633 yards.
Yet the Vols couldn't put the game away until the 9:09 mark of the fourth quarter when cornerback Eric Gordon intercepted a pass from Dalton Williams at the Akron 19-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Tyler Bray hit a wide-open Justin Hunter for a touchdown.
The Vols kept throwing on their next possession to tack on another touchdown, making for a respectable — though terribly misleading — final score.
A brief pause for perspective: Akron entered the game as a 32-point underdog, and lost its season opener 56-14 to Central Florida.
It doesn't have SEC-caliber athletes. It doesn't even have athletes comparable to those on the best teams in the Mid-American Conference.
But it was better prepared than UT, which made too many errors early and sometimes looked silly trying to defend the Zips in the first half.
No one doubts if Akron's Terry Bowden can coach. In his first year as Auburn's coach, he went undefeated. He also won at North Alabama in his coaching comeback. Saturday's game, just his fourth with the Zips, was another testament to his coaching, especially on offense.
The Zips didn't have enough offense to pull off an upset. But they had enough to make you wonder how the Vols will slow down Georgia next Saturday.
Granted, Tennessee had little to gain against Akron. It could have played a perfect game and not chased away the ghosts still lingering from the previous Saturday.
And ghosts don't draw a crowd, which helps explain why so many fans who witnessed the fourth-quarter collapse against Florida didn't return. The announced crowd was 81,719, or about 21,000 fewer than the one that saw the Gators overtake the Vols in the last 20 minutes for a 37-20 victory.
UT's start against Akron fell right in line with its finish against the Gators.
Bray opened the scoring by completing a pass to Akron cornerback Avis Commack, who responded by returning the interception 44 yards for a touchdown.
Next came a fumble by running back Rajion Neal. Kurt Mangum recovered for the Zips to set up a 45-yard field goal by Robert Stein.
Later, UT wide receiver Zach Rogers dropped a deep ball behind the Akron secondary.
Without those miscues, UT wouldn't have needed a fourth-quarter surge to take control of the game. But that had nothing to do with Akron's ability to move the ball on the Vols.
Williams completed 27 of 49 passes for 229 yards. Quentin Hines had a 70-yard touchdown run.
Remind you of anything?
The Vols' pass defense was inadequate against the Gators, where it also gave up an 80-yard touchdown run.
Bottom line: this team is making way too many mistakes on both sides of the ball.
And if the trend continues, the next four games could be disastrous.