COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Just call them the “Zombie Vols.”
Tennessee coach Butch Jones described his team after Saturday’s game as “really flat-lined, very level-headed, never too high, never too low.”
It was meant to be a compliment in the sense that these No. 9-ranked Vols (5-1, 2-1) have yet to allow themselves to be overwhelmed by any opponent, regardless of the deficit they are facing.
It’s a resilient bunch to be sure, particularly when one considers that Tennessee’s rallies have been staged with several starters knocked out of the lineup — nine at last count.
The Vols just keep coming back, as was again the case on Saturday at Texas A&M, when the Aggies built a 28-7 lead only to see Tennessee rally to tie the game at 35-35 in regulation and send the contest to overtime.
Texas A&M won the game in double overtime, 45-38, but that doesn’t mean the Aggies have seen the last of the Zombie Vols.
Tennessee plays host to Alabama at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in a game it would have no business winning, considering the amount of injuries the team has suffered.
But even with a loss to the Crimson Tide, the Vols can win out and still find themselves in the SEC Championship Game looking for a rematch against either of their West Division foes from this season.
Here are four parting shots from the loss to Texas A&M:
4. The Zombie Mindset
It’s a trickle down from Josh Dobbs, who has proven to have the poise of a champion, maintaining a “snap and clear” mentality.
Dobbs’ teammates feed off his calmness as well as his ability to make clutch plays.
Having a dual-threat quarterback like Dobbs who can improvise once the original play has broken down is paramount to the offense’s continued success.
3. Running Back Sparks
Alvin Kamara and John Kelly provided as good of a 1-2 punch as Tennessee has seen this season.
Kamara seems well-suited for the shot gun set Jones insists on — an I-formation would have better-suited Jalen Hurd. Kamara’s quickness and versatility as a receiver out of the backfield are a good fit.
Kelly’s propensity to run North-South rather than bounce plays outside also resulted in positive results and a higher yards-per-carry average than Hurd has managed this season.
2. Injured Team
The injuries have mounted, and Tennessee finds itself desperately in need of a bye week.
Instead, the Crimson Tide is headed for Knoxville for a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday.
Jones didn’t want to discuss injuries on Saturday, but he’ll likely provide an update at his Monday press conference on offensive linemen Dylan Wiesman and Jashon Robertson, defensive tackles Kendal Vickers and Danny O’Brien and linebacker Cortez McDowell.
1. Fumble Issues
Tennessee was fortunate to recover 11 of is first 12 fumbles this season, but the odds have caught up with the Vols. UT has fumbled nine times in the past two games, losing seven of them.
Jones said he might dedicate 25 minutes per day to ball security in the wake of the fumble issues.