The game went from expected Tennessee blow-out to collective sighs of relief on a fumble recovery. There were several issues identified--and exploited--by the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the opening game. However, with the game on the line late, the Volunteers made more plays than they missed. A definite improvement over last season.

Tennessee vs. Appalachian State game stats

Score - Tennessee 20-13,

First Downs- App State 19-17

Pass 1st dwn - Tenn 10-7

Rush 1st dwn - App State10-9

3rd dwn efficiency - App State 3-13 (23%) - Tenn 7-16 (44%)

4th dwn efficiency -App State 1-2 (50%) - Tenn 0-0

Total Yards -App State 292 - Tenn 319

Yards per play -App State 4.4 - Tenn 4.3

Pass compl - attempt -App State 15-23 - Tenn 16-29

Yards per compl -App State 7.2 - Tenn 13.2

Sacked -App State 0-0 - Tenn 2-19

Rushing -App State 184 - Tenn 127

Carries -App State 43 - Tenn 43

Yds per Carry -App State 4.3 - Tenn 3.0

Turnovers -App State 1 - Tenn 2

What happened to Tennessee's offense?

In 2015, the Volunteers averaged 224 yards per game rushing, 199 passing and 422 overall. These numbers were achieved even though they played against defenses like Alabama, Missouri, Florida, Arkansas, Vandy, etc.

As a group, the Vols lined up opposite many of the best defenses in college Football.

The Vols return nine of 11 starters from the 2015 team. With the Mountaineers being their first opponent, fans expected Tennessee to show off a superior ground and pound game. No need showing all the wrinkles off to upcoming opponents. Just keep it vanilla and pound the lesser mid major into submission.

As happens in football from time to time, the supposed sacrificial lamb started kicking and screaming and didn't play to the script.

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The Mountaineer defense bowed their backs and held the Vols rushing attack to just 127 total yards. To put it into perspective, Oklahoma held the Vols to 129 rushing yards in the opening game last year. Only Arkansas (133 yards) and Alabama (132 yards) held the Vols under 155 yards rushing all year.

The offensive line replaced three starters--LT Kyler Kirbyson, LG Marcus Jackson and center Mack Crowder--but the replacements are all players with significant game time and starts.

However, the Mountaineer defense was more physical and stymied the run game all night. In addition, they had two sacks and harried Dobbs when he went back to pass all night.

For three quarters the Vols attempted to keep Dobbs in the pocket for the most part. It wasn't until later in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, that they allowed him to scramble out and attempt to make plays with his legs. It worked but it almost came too late.

Volunteer passing game unimproved

Joshua Dobbs completion percentage--55.2 percent--was about the same as last season and for pretty much the same reasons. Dobbs threw 29 passes, completing 16 for 192 yards, 1 TD and an interception. However, just like 2015, he had six catchable passes--one for a touchdown--dropped by receivers. Of the 13 incompletions, if half the drops were caught, his percentage--65.5 percent--would better represent Dobbs passing. Still, that interception he threw was ugly.

Volunteers better than they looked

No need to get overly excited about it. The coaches were very conservative on offense and almost waited too late to open things up. Almost, but they did do it and it did work out fine. For now, the offensive line issues are their most urgent need for attention. They have the personnel, can the coaches get it fixed quickly?

In the long run, it's a win. Get the line woes corrected by the next game, continue working with the receivers and this becomes a memory. Last thing, good for Appalachian State! This is a very good, well coached football team.

Maybe we will see them again in the playoff? That's doubtful but not just because of Appalachian State.

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