Tennessee Game Grades: Bowling Green State Edition

Tennessee Game Grades: Bowling Green State Edition.

Here are my grades for Tennessee’s performance against Bowling Green State:

Offense: B+

The offense utilized a pretty conservative game plan focusing on the rushing game against a Bowling Green State team that was very inexperienced and coming off of a very bad defensive season in 2014. The offense executed the limited playbook well and had no turnovers. They were able to get great field position from special teams. The offense did have several methodical drives and a good two-minute drill at the end of the first half that killed whatever momentum BGSU could muster.

Quarterback: A-
Joshua Dobbs did an excellent job managing the offense. He did look a little rusty early on, as he made a couple of questionable decisions in the pocket early. He hit some key second-level passes and ended up a solid 15/22 with 205 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 89 yards of rushing. Most importantly, he had no turnovers. As mentioned above, the offensive play calling was conservative and the Tennessee coaches did not open the passing playbook open very much.

Running Backs: A+
Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara were the highlight of the game for Tennessee. As advertised, they complemented each other well. Kamara had a 56-yard touchdown and both runners had over 100 yards (144 for Kamara, 123 for Hurd). The Bowling Green defense clearly did not enjoy tackling Hurd at the end and had trouble with their pursuit angles against the speedster Kamara.

Receivers: B-
The receiving corps had a solid game, but did have two costly penalties – one negating a touchdown – and two drops. Distribution was good, with the 15 receptions spread amongst six receivers (all with either two or three catches). Again, the conservative play calling really capped the potential for the passing game. Ethan Wolf had a great game, with three receptions, two for touchdowns.

Offensive Line: B
Another solid performance. The offensive line only allowed one sack and little pressure on Dobbs, but you must remember that BGSU was – statistically – the second worst defense in FBS last season. The gaudy rushing numbers and solid performance will be tested next week against Oklahoma. They were solid in their assignments and blitz pick-ups.

Defense: C

Let’s be clear. Bowling Green State is a good offense and Matt Johnson is a potential NFL-caliber quarterback. But allowing 557 (433 passing/124 rushing) yards against Bowling Green State isn’t a great first effort for the Vols defense; a defense that was very highly touted coming into the game. With an All-American candidate running back and Air Raid quaterback coming to Knoxville next week, we will see if this was a one-game aberration or if there is cause for real concern on the defensive side.

Defensive Line: B
The Vols used a lot of four-man rush up front and were able to get decent pressure, but didn’t get to BGSU quarterback Johnson as much as the Vol faithful expected. Having said that, the Falcon offensive line did return more game starts than any other team in FBS except for UCLA. As bad as BGSU’s defensive front is, their offensive line is that much better. This was the most hyped Tennessee unit coming into the game, and they might suffer from a lack of highlight plays, but it was a solid effort up front.

Linebackers: C
The linebackers looked good against the run (especially on the edges), but struggled in pass defense and didn’t look like very confident in managing the defensive calls. It will be interesting to see what adjustments – if any – occur with this unit during this week’s practice. Middle linebacker continues to be a question mark.

Defensive Backs: C-
The only reason this isn’t a “D” is because of Cam Sutton. Sutton was targeted twice and one was a crushing blow on a quick slant and the other was a near pick six. BGSU hit multiple fly-routes down the sideline, beating the cornerbacks and outsmarting the safeties with crafty quarterback play. Allowing 433 yards in the air will prove costly for the Vols in SEC play. Expect a lot of work for this unit this week and possibly some tough decisions with personnel movement, such as moving Cam Sutton back to corner and taking a close look at the opposite cornerback manning.

Special Teams: A-

Only two Aaron Medley missed field goals kept this from being an “A+”. Cam Sutton had two great punt returns and Evan Berry had a 67-yard kickoff return to set the offense up inside the BGSU 35-yard line three times, all resulting in touchdowns. Trevor Daniel looked good in punting duties and the coverage teams had no significant yardage on returns. Additionally, the Vols had a blocked field goal attempt.

Coaching: B

The team was clearly prepared to play. The offensive execution was good, bordering on great and there were no issues with clock management or decision making. The defensive scheme did seem to be slow to react to BGSU’s passing success. And all of Tennessee’s defensive adjustments were met quickly and with success by the BGSU offense until midway through the fourth, when Tennessee’s offense had sealed the game away. Clearly a conservative approach overall.

What are your thoughts on the Vols’ performance?

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