COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Tennessee continued its Jekyll-Hyde ways Saturday afternoon at Texas A&M, falling behind 28-7 before rallying to send the game into overtime.
The No. 8-ranked Aggies (6-0, 4-0 SEC) pulled out the 45-38 win in two overtimes, but not before the No. 9-ranked Vols (5-1, 2-1) made another statement about their resiliency and tenacity.
That second half was worth some extra credit on this week’s report card because of the strength of the opponent and the environment.
Josh Dobbs had 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions, but it’s hard not to appreciate the poise and greatness he otherwise displayed in passing for 398 yards, catching a touchdown pass and rushing for 57 yards. One of Dobbs’ interceptions was totally on the tight end.
RUNNING BACKS: B+
It was the most explosive effort from the Vols backs all season, and Alvin Kamara had a lot to do with it. Kamara had 127 yards rushing and 2 TDs on 18 carries to go with his 161 yards receiving on 8 catches. John Kelly had 89 yards and a TD on 13 carries. Both Kamara and Kelly fumbled, however.
A few drops on what would have been tough catches but still should have been catches. Josh Malone was separated from a would-be third-down conversion catch, and Jauan Jennings also had a drop. Josh Smith missed a ball he could have caught that was thrown behind him. Tight end Jason Croom caused an interception when he bobbled a pass. Freshman Tyler Byrd was the most consistent wide receiver target with 3 catches for 60 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
This unit got shuffled again on account of an early injury to Dylan Wiesman, but a now-healthy Coleman Thomas came in and didn’t miss a beat. Jashon Robertson was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter, but redshirt freshman Venzell Boulware came in and performed admirably. Dobbs was sacked 4 times, but scheme had something to do with that.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Derek Barnett played well, making 6 tackles with a sack, 2 QB hurries and a pass break-up (30 yards downfield), Khalil McKenzie had 5 stops, including a big third-down tackle, and Kendal Vickers had 4 stops before leaving the game with an injury. Corey Vereen had a quiet 3 tackles.
Colton Jumper led the team with 10 tackles and he had an interception, and Cortez McDowell made 5 stops before leaving with an injury. Elliott Berry came off the bench to make 7 tackles, including a tackle-for-loss.
As injured as this unit is, it was a very good performance. Todd Kelly Jr. had 7 tackles and an interception, and Malik Foreman had 3 stops and what could have been a historic forced fumble had the Vols come back and won. Micah Abernathy came off the bench and played injured, making 2 tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Aaron Medley had a pressure-packed successful extra point and 34-yard field goal, and Trevor Daniel had a big day punting with a 45.2-yard average. The return game was held in check, as Kamara had 3 punt returns for 8 yards, and Evan Berry had 3 kick returns for 65 yards.
Another slow start and another fumble-filled performance were the bad news. The good news was Tennessee had a very good offensive plan of attack, and the defense somehow held together after Texas A&M took a 28-7 lead and got the ball back for the offense. Coach Butch Jones is doing an effective job managing the team.
It was an inspiring comeback, even if it fell short. Tennessee is winning over the most casual of fans with its never-say-die attitude and big-time playmakers. The Vols are a fun team to watch, and if they can stop beating themselves with turnovers, they might also be a championship team.