Josh Malone

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No. 17 Tennessee races past Virginia Tech in Battle at Bristol

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It took a full game, an overtime and an extra quarter, but Tennessee finally arrived to the 2016 college football season. And now that they’re here… look out.

After a sloppy first quarter resulted in a 14-0 deficit, the 17th-ranked Volunteers raced past Virginia Tech for a 45-24 win in at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Vols’ first three possessions lasted 10 plays — that’s one above the minimum, avoiding turnovers — while Virginia Tech mounted drives of 59, 62 and 77 yards, the last one largely a 69-yard Travon McMillan scoring jaunt. But, backed into their own territory, Virginia Tech botched a shotgun snap exchange and Tennessee recovered at the Hokies’ 5-yard line.

One play later, Tennessee cut the deficit to 14-7 on Josh Dobbs‘ first touchdown pass of the day. Four snaps after that, the Vols had shot 90 yards in four plays — largely on the strength of a 40-yard Dobbs dash and an on-the-money 38-yard scoring heave to Josh Malone — to tie the game. Another Virginia Tech fumble led to a short field goal drive, and Tennessee closed a blitzkrieg second quarter by moving 58 yards in nine plays to set up a 5-yard Dobbs touchdown run, turning a 14-0 hole to start the second quarter into a 24-14 lead at its close.

Dobbs’ third touchdown pass of the day, this one to Alvin Kamara, nudged the lead to 31-14 midway through the third quarter, and Virginia Tech at last stopped the bleeding with a Joey Slye 26-yard field goal on their next possession.

Any glimmer of Hokie hope evaporated with another lost fumble that turned into another Vols touchdown drive, and that pattern repeated itself one more time to push the lead to 45-17. Virginia Tech added a cosmetic score to close the scoring with 3:28 remaining.

Dobbs closed the night hitting 10-of-19 passing with three touchdowns and an interception while rushing 14 times for 106 yards and two more scores; Jalen Hurd added 22 carries for 99 yards.

Virginia Tech posted nice numbers offensively — 214 passing yards for Jerod Evans, 127 on the ground by McMillan — but five lost fumbles negated much of that progress.

No. 17 Tennessee takes lead to locker room at Bristol

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Tennessee rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to dominate the second quarter and take a 24-14 lead opposite Virginia Tech to the half at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Vols’ first three possessions went three-and-out, three-and-out, and four-and-out and, while its offense couldn’t stay on the field, its defense couldn’t stay off of it. Virginia Tech moved 59 yards in 13 plays before a missed field goal on its first possession, then mounted touchdown drives of 62 and 77 yards to take a 14-0 lead after one quarter.

But, after forcing its third punt in as many tries, Virginia Tech botched a shotgun handoff at its own 15-yard line, which Tennessee eventually recovered at the 5. Josh Dobbs hit Jajuan Jennings for a touchdown pass one play later.

Virginia Tech punted on its next possession and Tennessee responded by racing 90 yards in four plays — chiefly on a 40-yard Dobbs run and a 38-yard heave to Josh Malone to tie the game at the 9:42 mark of the second quarter.

After a short field goal drive, Tennessee closed its tour de force second quarter by moving 58 yards in nine plays, leading to a five-yard Dobbs scoring run. Dobbs closed the half by completing 5-of-8 passes for a wildly efficient 49 yards and two touchdowns, plus six carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. Jalen Hurd added 12 carries for 66 yards.

For Virginia TechJerod Evans has completed 10-of-15 throws for 97 yards and a score and Travon McMillan has rushed 10 times for 105 yards and a 69-yard touchdown dash.

Tennessee will receive to open the second half.

Tennessee escapes with overtime win over Appalachian State

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Nine years to the day after Appalachian State cut down a mighty Michigan team in an upset for the ages, they aimed to repeat history deep in the heart of SEC country at No. 9 Tennessee.

Could David slay Goliath again?

For most of Thursday night, the answer looked like yes. The Mountaineers pushed the Vols into overtime but ultimately it was the home team who escaped with a 20-13 win in remarkable fashion.

Quarterback Josh Dobbs dived into the end zone on the first possession of overtime and promptly fumbled the football when clocked by a pair of defenders. Luckily teammate Jalen Hurd was in the right place at the right time and was able to dive on the ball for what proved to be the eventual winning score.

Appalachian State failed to even pick up a first down on the ensuing series and had their last-ditch pass knocked away in the end zone to let Rocky Top breath a collective sigh of relief.

But the game was in large part not about the Vols struggles but just how much the Mountaineers punched above their weight and showed they might be even better than last year’s 11 win campaign showed. Star tailback Marcus Cox rushed for 115 yards and looked like a regular in the SEC. The defense straight up dominated the Vols offense and limited them to just 127 yards rushing.

Appalachian State looked like the better of the two teams for most of the first half. They really made UT fans nervous by jumping out to a 13-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter and seemed to dial up the right play defensively to harass the Vols into two turnovers.

Tennessee appeared to regain momentum early in the 4th quarter however when Dobbs lofted a pass over the shoulder of Josh Malone, who promptly ripped away from a defensive back for a 67 yard touchdown that tied the game. The Vols failed to keep things going however, with a number of drives stalling out as the two teams failed to mount any serious drives to end the 4th quarter.

Ultimately, a few miscues in the kicking game may have proven too much to overcome for the Mountaineers though. Redshirt freshman kicker Michael Rubino missed both an extra point and a 42-yard field goal that would have given the team the upset win.

Still, while Appalachian State will head home to North Carolina with their heads held high knowing they can compete with a top 10 team, the win is bound to call into question all of the preseason love that Tennessee received in being picked to win the SEC East. Vols head coach Butch Jones is likely to hear plenty of complaints from the fan base in the ensuing days if things don’t improve significantly on the field from their disjointed effort in the opener. It won’t be easy to with a big test looming in Week 2 as the team travels to Bristol Motor Speedway to take on Virginia Tech.

Perhaps the only saving grace for the Vols is they won’t go down in history like that Michigan team from 2007 that was upset by Appalachian State. But it wasn’t for lack of trying on Thursday night.

Tennessee fumbles away upset bid; No. 8 Alabama wins for 9th straight time vs. Vols

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Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) gave No. 8 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) a respectable fight, but when it came time to make a big play in the clutch, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs lost control of the football and fumbled away the football to Alabama’s defense as time was winding down in the game. In the end, Alabama held on to avoid a serious upset bid by Tennessee, winning 19-14 to hand the Vols their ninth straight defeat against Alabama.

Tennessee seemed to stun Alabama midway through the fourth quarter when Jalen Hurd maneuvered through the Alabama defense for a 12-yard touchdown. The score gave the Vols a 14-13 lead quickly after Alabama took a 13-7 lead. Tennessee’s scoring drive needed just four plays to a 75-yard touchdown drive that included a pair of big passes from Joshua Dobbs to Josh Smith and Josh Malone. Like a prized champion fighter though, Alabama got the last punch in. Derrick Henry scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to put Alabama up 19-14. The situation called for a two-point conversion attempt, but a pass attempt fell incomplete to keep the score a five-point differential.

Alabama quarterback Jake Coker completed 21 of 27 pass attempts for 247 yards, but he was without a touchdown pass. Henry took care of that on the ground, running for 143 yards and two scores to continue padding his Heisman Trophy candidate profile. though not the case for much of the game, Alabama did end the game with more total offensive yards (364-303).

Alabama will be off next week. The next time we see the Crimson Tide take the field, they will face a likely undefeated LSU team. The Tigers take on Western Kentucky in soggy Baton Rouge tonight and should enter their bye week with a clean 7-0 record. Like Alabama, LSU will be off next week as well before the big SEC West showdown in Tuscaloosa. The game could very well provide more clarity to the SEC West race, although LSU still has games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M to play before the end of the regular season.

Tennessee will return home next week for a primetime matchup with Kentucky in an SEC East battle. Tennessee still has a favorable schedule ahead of them to finish on a hot streak in the regular season. Tennessee must visit Missouri, but the back end of the schedule also features games against Vanderbilt, North Texas and South Carolina. That should lead to some nice momentum heading to a bowl game.

 

No. 23 Tennessee looking the part through one half vs. No. 17 Oklahoma

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Through one half at a sufficiently amped Neyland Stadium, No. 23 Tennessee looks every bit like the team deserving of all that offseason hype and not the one that’s one for its last 28 against ranked opponents. The Vols hold a 17-3 lead over No. 17 Oklahoma at the break.

Tennessee opened the scoring with a 19-yard Aaron Medley field goal with 9:51 to go in the first quarter, and Josh Dobbs pushed the lead to 10 when he found Josh Malone for a nine-yard strike at the 1:56 mark of the opening frame.

Dobbs then pushed the lead to 17-0 when he hit Josh Smith for a 19-yard gain and then raced in from four yards out two plays later at the 12:14 mark of the second quarter.

Austin Siebert finally put the Sooners on the board with a 35-yard field goal with 4:56 to go before the half.

The combination of Dobbs and Jalen Hurd has carried Tennessee; Dobbs has completed 6-of-12 throws for 61 yards and a touchdown and rushed 10 times for 19 yards and another score, while Hurd has totaled 66 yards on 13 carries.

Led by Derek Barnett, the Tennessee front has harassed Baker Mayfield into 13 incompletions and one interception on his 20 throws, good for all of 77 yards. Joe Mixon has rushed five times for 35 yards, while Samaje Perine has added 31 yards on 11 carries.

Worth noting: Tennessee is 13-1 under Butch Jones when leading at the half.

Tennessee will receive the ball to open the second half.