Vols Survive Season Opener Against Appalachian State

Posted at 7:05 AM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 08:06:35-04

Survive and advance. That's all Tennessee had to do in Thursday night's season opener against Appalachian State, and that's what it did.


The ninth-ranked Vols struggled much of the night, failing to establish their vaunted running game or showcase the supposedly improved passing skills of quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

They fell behind 13-3 and trailed a Sun Belt team in the fourth quarter at Neyland Stadium, but they figured out a way to win.

Dobbs connected with Josh Malone on a 67-yard touchdown to tie the game and the defense came up with the holds they needed to force overtime (thanks to some criminal clock management by App State). 

It required a heroic fumble recovery by Jalen Hurd in the endzone for a touchdown after Dobbs fumbled while taking a big hit while stretching for the goalline, but a win is a win.

This isn't Simone Biles at the Olympics trying to impress the judges. It's college football and Tennessee is 1-0.

Maybe the Vols got caught looking ahead to quite literally the biggest football game ever next weekend in the Battle of Bristol. Or maybe an Appalachian State that went 11-2 last year with the 11th ranked defense in the county is pretty good.

Either way, Tennessee got an opening night test and it passed. And that's not something I'm sure it could've done a year ago.

This is the same team that surrendered double digit second half leads to Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas in the first half of last season. On Thursday, under the weight of heavy expectations, the Vols erased a 10 point deficit and figured out a way to win.

Sure, there needs to be concern that App State outplayed Tennessee in the trenches on both sides of the ball and that Dobbs still seems to be erratic throwing downfield.

Dobbs and the rest of Tennessee's stars have to be better. Hurd and Alvin Kamara did not dominate on the ground like expected, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was ejected for targeting and All-American Cam Sutton fumbled his first punt return.

And Tennessee still won.

There will be a lot of talk over the next nine days that the Vols are overrated, and maybe they aren't the ninth best team in the country yet. But the talent is there and they say the biggest improvement comes between games one and two.

I suspect that will be true of these Vols. And the best part about it, they're motoring on to Bristol Motor Speedway 1-0.