The Tennessee Volunteers entered Saturday’s contest in need of a bounce back victory. On paper it didn’t look to be much of a problem for the team clad in orange as they returned home to face the Sun Belt’s South Alabama.
Tennessee had never lost to a Sun Belt team coming into Saturday’s game, but that came very close to changing after a shaky second half for the Vols. They would survive late and hang on to beat the South Alabama Jaguars 31-24 in Knoxville, Tenn. Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee Volunteers junior quarterback, Justin Worley, had another sub-par performance as he added three more interceptions to his season total of six, while also adding two touchdown passes to help lift the Vols over South Alabama’s early lead in they sustained in the first quarter.
While Worley contributed 204 yards through the air Saturday completing 20-of-36 passes, it was the Volunteers’ running game that got the offense working. Raijon Neal and Marlin Lane combined rushed for 235 yards on 30 carries, and two touchdowns. Neal himself had a career rushing day with 169 yards on his 25 carries, with a long of 53 yards that he ripped off shortly after Lane had a 54-yard run on the previous drive.
South Alabama jumped out to an early lead over the Vols after going 82 yards in just six plays, capping the drive off with a 32-yard run by their quarterback Ross Metheny. After a three-and-out by Tennessee, Metheny returned to the field and threw an interception after the ball was tipped by his intended receiver, and landed into the hands of Ladarrell McNeil. Tennessee’s offense would only gain one yard in the first three downs before settling for a Michael Palardy field goal to cut into the Jaguars 7-0 lead.
The rest of the first half would be all Tennessee as they scored on their next three drives, taking a 24-7 lead into the half.
On their first drive of the second half the Vols looked to continue their dominance by scoring on a six play, 76-yard drive and sustaining a 31-7 lead over a then-overwhelmed South Alabama squad.
The Jaguars would claw their way back into the game off of a couple of forced three-and-outs, an interception and a heavily botched field goal attempt by Tennessee, and closed the lead back to seven. South Alabama set themselves up with a chance for victory after marching the ball down the field after another three-and-out by the Volunteers offense, but Metheny threw his third, and final interception of the game on a failed fourth down conversion attempt from inside the Tennessee redzone.
The road only gets tougher for Tennessee next week as they welcome in the Georgia Bulldogs (3-1) Saturday, Oct. 5 at Neyland Stadium. While an official time has yet to be set for this game, it is assumed kickoff will be at 3:30 p.m. EDT on CBS after the Bulldogs big win over LSU this past Saturday.