Tennessee Stat Book
Photo by Michael Patrick, copyright © 2012 // Buy this photo
Thank goodness for three interceptions and a bend-but-don't-break defense.
Tennessee's defense yielded four field goals and one big breakdown on a rushing play during a 47-26 victory over Akron on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.
Akron senior quarterback Dalton Williams completed 27 of 49 passes for 229 yards.
"They averaged like less than 5 yards an attempt for the game," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "These guys threw for 600 yards last week (in a 66-6 victory over Morgan State). We knew they were going to complete some passes."
UT had three defensive starters not listed No. 1 on the pre-game depth chart — end Corey Miller, nose guard Steven Fowlkes, and linebacker Dontavis Sapp.
The Vols got a big play on Akron's first series when Williams was pressured by Sapp and threw an interception to free safety Byron Moore, who returned it 20 yards and set up a field goal.
"Give credit to the D-line all night," Moore said. "We knew we could pressure the front seven up there, and coach Sal (Sunseri, defensive coordinator) put us in the right position to make the play."
UT forced a punt on the Akron's next drive, but the Zips converted a fumble recovery into a 45-yard field goal by Robert Stein on the next possession, then put together two long drives that resulted in two more field goals by Stein.
With 2:14 left in the half, Akron senior running back Quentin Hines ran up the middle and into the open field for a 70-yard touchdown run and a 23-20 lead.
Williams was 11-of-22 passing in the first half for 109 yards, as the Vols employed five and six defensive backs. It was tied 23-all at halftime.
"The score at halftime isn't the score that matters," Moore said. "It's a four-quarter game, and we just keep our composure and come out and try to play 60 minutes as best we can."
Moore got his second interception early in the third quarter at the Vols' 2-yard line and returned it 15 yards.
Akron mustered only one more long drive in the game, and that resulted in another Stein field goal.
"The worst play was the run (by Hines)," Dooley said. "When you play teams like that, that throw it that much, and we chose not to come after them and blitz the quarterback because we didn't want to give up a cheap one, so we wanted to make them earn it the hard way."
Eric Gordon got the Vols' third interception in the fourth quarter on a pass by Williams that went off the hands of Zips receiver Marquelo Suel.
UT's defense forced the Zips to go three and out on four drives in the second half.
"We played it real simple," Dooley said. "We weren't getting a lot of pressure, but what we didn't want to do was sell the house and give up a cheap one (on a pass play), and we kept it real simple in the second half, just played a couple of zone coverages and tackled and covered and did a good job."