Tennessee Stat Book
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Tyler Bray put up monster numbers (27-of-43 for 401 yards and four touchdowns) and at times seemed to pass at will against the overmatched Akron defense. But the interception he threw in the first quarter lowers his grade. It allowed the Zips to hang around. In an SEC game, it might have cost the Vols a win.
Running backs B
Rajion Neal had a costly fumble, but still ran for a career-high 151 yards. Plenty of players got carries behind him. Interestingly, the first off the bench was freshman Quenshaun Watson, although he didn't do much. Marlin Lane (nine carries, 47 yards) fared much better in the second half.
Wide receivers/tight ends B
Justin Hunter surpassed 100 yards again and continues to be Bray's most reliable target and favorite receiver. Zach Rogers had two drops after making a nice 48-yard reception on an underthrown pass by Bray. Cordarelle Patterson was in negative yardage for much of the game and was actually out-gained by Jacob Carter, who made a nifty catch for his first career touchdown. Tight end Brendan Downs, back after a quick knee rehabilitation, also had a touchdown catch.
Offensive line C
With a few exceptions, Bray had time to throw and the running backs had big holes to run through. But two failures on third- and fourth-and-short continue to raise concerns in short-yardage situations.
DEFENSIVE LINE C
Akron's offense is designed around short passes, so it's not surprising that Zips quarterback Dalton Williams was sacked only once. Dooley said there was a concerted decision by coaches not to blitz Williams and risk a big pass play. But a little more pressure might have eased the pressure on Tennessee's secondary.
The Vols gave up another big play (a 70-yard run before halftime) and missed opportunities to disrupt long Akron drives. But they made Akron settle for field goals and kept a scare from turning into a loss.
All the secondary's shortcomings were absolved by three interceptions, including a game-changer in the fourth quarter by Eric Gordon. Byron Moore had two interceptions and came close to a hat trick late in the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS A
In an unlikely battle of kickers, Derrick Brodus held his own, making all four of his field goals and not missing an extra point — the first time that's happened for the Vols this season. Tennessee is still waiting on game-changing plays in the return game. Devrin Young came close on a late punt. Big returns will help immensely next week, when the Vols will need everything to go their way.
Tennessee's depth and talent eventually overwhelmed Akron late in the game, but the Zips had an impressive offensive game plan that made up for their inability to compete on size and speed. Tennessee coaches deserve credit for keeping players from panicking. In a 60-minute game, the Vols' advantages grew over time and coaches knew it.
This game will do little to bolster Tennessee's confidence heading into next week's game against Georgia, but it wasn't the disaster it appeared it might be in the third quarter. That said, with Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray picking apart opposing defenses, the Vols' defense could be under the gun in six days.