ATLANTA, Ga. — Tennessee had one for-sure contributor on the offensive side of the ball coming into the season opener against Georgia Tech
That was running back John Kelly, and everyone knew he had to make plays for the Vols to come away with the victory.
Kelly delivered for his team. He ran for 128 yards on 19 attempts and scored 4 touchdowns in the 42-41 double overtime comeback win Monday night in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Kelly had 7 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown through the first two quarters. The coaching staff kept the game plan the same heading into the second half, only wanting the players to make plays when needed, Kelly said after the game.
“We really didn’t make too many adjustments,” Kelly said. “It was just up to us to make plays. Just all the guys on our team had to make plays. So, we came out in the second half and made more plays than Georgia Tech.”
Tennessee trailed 14-7 at halftime and fell behind 21-7 after Georgia Tech’s opening second half drive.
Kelly had stepped up as the team’s vocal leader throughout the summer and fall camp. He said he tried to keep his teammates’ minds in the game.
“We talked about just staying composed,” Kelly said. “That’s what I was focused on the most.”
Tennessee coach Butch Jones credited Kelly with providing a spark to the team in the second half.
“In terms of John Kelly, what can I say about him?” Jones said. “You know, as much as Marquez Callaway sparked us, John Kelly sparked us, as well, and he played with passion, played with energy. He played with a toughness, and again, he played with a great will to win.”
The game could have been prettier. Tennessee could have started out better. Kelly is just happy the Vols sit at 1-0 after the first week.
“A dub is a dub, man,” Kelly said. “I’m not complaining about it at all.”