KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The notion that Josh Dobbs may not start at quarterback for Tennessee on Saturday on account of injury led Butch Jones to say “you better check your sources” at his Monday press conference.
The No. 9-ranked Vols (1-0) appeared conservative where run calls for Dobbs to were concerned in their 20-13 overtime win over Appalachian State last Thursday.
Further, the senior quarterback took a hard fumble-inducing hit on his final play of the game. Even before the hit, Dobbs didn’t appear to be himself, exhibiting shaky passing accuracy and an inability to make positive yardage after plays broke down.
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Dobbs was 16-of-29 passing for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he also had two fumbles and missed open receivers.
A team captain, Dobbs curiously chose to deflect any of the blame many felt he was due entering into preparation for Saturday’s 8 p.m. game against Virginia Tech (1-0) in the “Battle at Bristol” Motor Speedway.
“We had some productive plays, obviously the big play to (Josh) Malone,” Dobbs said, asked about his passing, “and we were almost 50 percent on third down. At the end of the day, there are always things you can improve on.”
The Vols were out-rushed 184 yards to 127, but Dobbs saw the glass half full, even though UT averaged just 3 yards per attempt.
“We ran for like 130 yards so we were doing some good things,” Dobbs said. “When you look back on it, the second and third quarter they had the ball the whole time, we had three or four drives in two quarters, so you look back on it and that’s the situation you’re given, you have to take advantage of every situation you’re given.”
Jones blamed the lack of pass protection for Dobbs’ inability to take better advantage of the favorable matchups Vols receivers had on smaller, less experienced defensive backs throughout the night.
“There’s a number of things you don’t see, where we had receivers open and we had a breakdown in protection so we weren’t able to get them the ball,” Jones said. “There were times (Dobbs) did a really good job of standing in the pocket.
“The thing that was uncharacteristic of him and our entire football team was the balls on the ground and taking care of the football.”
Dobbs said the result was what mattered most where his fumble into the end zone was concerned.
“The play worked out in our favor,” Dobbs said, “so we were just excited to get the win.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and is based in Knoxville.