By Michael Williams
The University of Tennessee Volunteers shut out the North Texas Mean Green Saturday at Neyland Stadium with a final score of 24–0. The victory, before a crowd of 96,000, was homecoming for UT and secures the team a bowl appearance.
North Texas came into the game with a 1–9 season against the Vols 5–4 season. The Mean Green kick off was received by Alvin Kamara who ran 27 yards to the North Texas 35 yard line. The Vols covered 56 yards in five plays, providing Kamara to score on a 27 yard run. The extra point kicked by Aaron Medley was good giving the Vols an early lead of 7–0 at 13:51 of the first quarter.
North Texas struggled on a three-play drive that yielded no gains. NT punted, pushing the Vols to the UT 26-yard line. Tennessee began a 10-play drive covering 39 yards but was unsuccessful at reaching the end zone. The Vols punted which placed the Mean Green in an unenviable position on their own four-yard line. The Mean Green battled back forcing their way to the Tennessee 48-yard line before punting. Tennessee responded with a six play drive that left the Vols poised to score as the first quarter ended. Only three seconds into the second quarter, Jalen Hurd ran in a one-yard play to boost the Vols to a 13–0 lead. Medley scored again making the score 14–0.
The two teams battled one another in a series of unsuccessful drives which found Tennessee at the North Texas 34-yard line. Their efforts to reach the end zone were repeatedly thwarted prompting Coach Butch Jones to call for a field goal. Medley’s kick found the uprights again making the score 17–0 at the half.
Neither team scored in the third quarter leaving the score at 17–0 at the start of the fourth. At 13:37 of the fourth, Kamara scored on a 15-yard run making the score 23–0. Medley scored the extra point giving the Vols a commanding 24–0 lead. As the clock ticked down, the Vols held the Mean Green. The Vols regained the ball in the waning moments of the game and for a while it appeared as though they might tally up another touchdown, but their offense was shut down. The Vols nonetheless emerged victorious 24–0.
“First of all, it’s good to be bowl eligible,” said UT Coach Butch Jones. “These kids have worked so hard and knowing that we’re going to a bowl game, we’re proud of them. We have two very, very big games coming up. The more you win, the more is at stake.”
Although the Mean Green held possession of the ball longer than the Vols, statistically, Tennessee dominated the game. The Vols racked up 237 rushing yards as opposed to Mean Green’s 92 yards. Tennessee’s passing game eclipsed North Texas with 172 yards as opposed to the Mean Green, which totaled 107 yards. The Vols offense surpassed Mean Green’s in yardage gaining 409 yards which was more than double NT’s 199 yards.
“I thought defensively, we really played well—held them to under 200 yards,” said Jones. “I was really proud of our defense … I thought they had a very good game plan going into it. We had five possessions the entire second half, really three. That’s very, very unusual. I thought they had a great game plan.”
Jones fielded questions about his team’s offensive efficiency in the second half. “I think sometimes, when you go into a game like this, this is a game of patience. I think sometimes from a psychological standpoint, you’re trying to get up in a hurry. I thought we looked up instead of just putting our heads down and playing at times.”
Jones praised running back Alvin Kamara who led the Vols in scoring plays.
“We needed him. He did a great job of really making the second level defender miss and getting the ball north and south. He provided a spark for us. That was great to see because we needed that. We needed some momentum plays.”
The Vols have two games left in the season. Next week the square off against Missouri and on November 28 they play the last game of their regular season against the Vanderbilt Commodores in a home game.