Vols keep score up, penalties down
By David Cobb | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
KNOXVILLE — The competition stiffens dramatically in the form of No. 2 Oregon next week, but with Tennessee’s 52-20 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday, the Vols have won 12 straight games against non-conference opponents.
UT’s 97 points over its first two contests are the most since 1996 when Peyton Manning was quarterback. The Vols scored 62 against UNLV and 35 against UCLA to start that season.
Tennessee was not penalized until the final minute of the first half on Saturday, when Corey Miller was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which helped the Hilltoppers narrow the score to 31-17.
Though costly, it was UT’s first penalty of the season. The flag-free stretch dated back to the 2012 Kentucky game.
Tennessee finished with two penalties for 17 yards on the day.
The season-opening stretch was a stark contrast to the beginning 2012 season for the Vols. Left tackle Antonio Richardson was whistled for a false start on UT’s first play from scrimmage in 2012.
The offense is yet to be penalized on the year, and quarterback Justin Worley attributed the discipline to UT’s new coaching staff.
“I think it just knows that our coach is going to rip us on the sidelines,” Worley joked, before offering a more football-savvy answer. “I think it’s a huge testament to the way we practice and the mental stamina that we have, knowing what to do each and every play.”
Junior wide receiver Vincent Dallas handled UT’s kickoff return duties in place of the injured Devrin Young. His first return went for 34 yards and he opened the second half with a 36 yard return to give UT favorable field position and spark a drive which put UT ahead 38-17.
“I think Vincent has to make a decision when to bring it out and when to not,” Jones said. “But I thought he did a great job.”
Jacob Carter handled punt returns for the Vols in Young’s void. The Hilltoppers only punted three times because of their seven turnovers, but Carter fulfilled the duty with runbacks of nine and 11 yards.
“We ask for a high level of consistency back there and they did a nice job,” Jones said of the joint effort by Carter and Dallas.
Young wore a wrap on his left wrist and sported gym shorts and his orange jersey during the game.
Big splash play
Jones attributed UT’s second half offensive success to the fact that his team established the run game, while also acknowledging there was another aspect which contributed to the team gaining 182 yards in the second half after amassing just 84 in the first.
Johnathon Jones hauled in a 37 yard reception — Worley’s longest pass of the day — on UT’s opening series of the third quarter. The completion put the ball on WKU’s 4-yard line and Jones referred to it as “a big splash play.”
Jones praised Worley for the play and also mentioned Alton Howard’s 20-yard reverse on UT’s next series as a play which helped keep momentum on the Vols’ side.
“Justin did a great job of hanging in the pocket,” Jones said. “And we had a big reverse with Alton Howard. All of those things were momentum plays and they flipped the field position.”
Alcoa product Jaron Toney recorded a tackle and a quarterback hurry from his nickel back position on Saturday.