KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee survived upset-minded Ohio, but not before marquee players were injured in the game.
The 15th-ranked Vols (3-0) beat the Bobcats (1-2) by a 28-19 count before the crowd of 101,362 on Saturday to win its ninth-straight game.
Tennessee, however, saw All-SEC cornerback Cam Sutton (ankle) and All-SEC linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (unspecified) knocked out of the game in the first half with injuries.
The Vols opened the day without defensive starters Darrin Kirkland Jr. (MLB, ankle), LaTroy Lewis (DE, ankle) and Malik Foreman (NB, suspension), along with starting receiver Josh Smith (ankle).
Ohio kept the game close with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter, cutting Tennessee’s lead to 21-19.
The Vols responded with a touchdown drive of their own, Josh Dobbs sealing it by hitting Josh Malone with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 11:07 remaining in the fourth quarter that made it 28-19.
Dobbs was 19-of-27 passing for 203 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and he rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Florida, winners of 11 in a row in its series with Tennessee, play the Vols at 3:30 p.m ET next Saturday in Neyland Stadum.
Things we learned
• Dobbs needs continued work with receivers to get timing down. Dobbs missed Malone twice on would-be touchdown touchdown passes as well as a potential third-down conversion.
* The Vols need to continue to work on tackling drills. Safety Todd Kelly Jr. missed three tackles and had a facemask penalty in the first half alone.
• Butch Jones might want to consider pulling some starters off special teams. Reeves-Maybin suffered an injury covering a punt in the second quarter. Earlier this season, Reeves-Maybin was suspended in the first quarter for targeting on special teams.
• The Tennessee offense was struggling through the second quarter and halfway through the third when Dobbs hung in the pocket, took a hit, and delivered a third-down strike to Jason Croom. The Vols were facing third-and-5 at the 50-yard line when Dobbs found Croom for 19 yards. Four plays later, Dobbs scored on a 13-yard run to make it 21-12, giving UT just enough breathing room.
• The Vols responded to Jones’ request to start fast, driving 55 yards on three plays to open the game with a 20-yard pass from Dobbs to Malone providing points.
• Injury report: How many of the missing starters will return for next Saturday’s game with Florida?
• Tennessee juggled its starting offensive line, but the struggles to protect Dobbs and run block consistently continued. Can the Vols get this unit to play with cohesion and consistency?
Tennessee recovered all five of its fumbles on Saturday, and it now has recovered 15 of the 18 the team has had this season.
What it means
Tennessee fans can only hope the Vols have been looking past their first three opponents in anticipation of the all-important showdown with Florida next Saturday.