KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones stepped into the Appalachian State team huddle following Thursday night’s game to let the Mountaineers know they had not been overlooked.
Appalachian State is that good, Jones later told the media, saying he needed to “educate” them about the Vols’ nearest FBS neighbor.
The Mountaineers believe Tennessee is pretty good, too, after the No. 9-ranked Vols topped them 20-13 in overtime.
RELATED: Grading the Vols’ overtime win
“That’s a great team right there in Tennessee, they’re going to do big things this year and show why they’re a top-10 team,” Appalachian State tailback Marcus Cox said after his 24-carry, 115-yard performance against UT. “In a game like this, when you have a top-10 team on the ropes, it’s definitely heartbreaking when you feel like you should have won.”
The Mountaineers out-rushed the Vols 184-127 and forced two Tennessee turnovers while committing just one themselves.
The Vols pulled out the win in overtime when tailback Jalen Hurd fell on Josh Dobbs’ fumble in the end zone, and Micah Abernathy batted down a pass in the end zone on Appalachian State’s ensuing possession.
“You could point out opportunities where we could have won the football game, and that’s a great team over there,” said Mountaineers QB Taylor Lamb, who was 15-of-23 passing for 109 yards, one touchdown and an interception. “They played hard, and they’re big and physical on defense. This one’s going to sting for a while.”
Appalachian State hosts Old Dominion next Saturday before welcoming the Miami Hurricanes to Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C., on Sept. 24.
“We went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in the country,” Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said before exiting Neyland Stadium. “We are proud of that fact, but we want to win football games. We will learn from this loss. It hurts, but we will come back strong next week.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee football for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.