For the last couple of years, I have been talking about how part of the growth of Butch Jones' program needed to be the ability to win an low-scoring, ugly, grind-it-out game. Mission accomplished Saturday in a 17-13 win — the third win in 12 games where Jones' led Vols scored less than 21 points.
The problem is that it was against UMass.
Saturday's head scratching win was two things. No. 1, it was unacceptable. Secondly, it left fans with plenty of questions.
As for the unacceptable part, cue up coach Butch Jones.
“We need to get win number three, and we got win number three,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, it's all about getting the victory, but the performance was just flat out unacceptable.”
In terms of the questions, Saturday gave you about the Vols, there are plenty.
Let's start with the quarterback position. Quinten Dormady started 5-of-10 for 47 yards then completed nine straight for 107 yards and a touchdown. In the fourth quarter nursing a 4-point lead, after Dromady elected not to run on a third down play, Jones turned to Jarrett Guarantano to look for a “spark." Guarantano finished 2-of-5 for -3 yards in three series of work. The offense finished with 10 yards on his 11 snaps. The reality is there was nothing to spark the second half offensively.
In 32 second half offensive snaps, regardless of the quarterback, the Vols gained just 58 total yards.
“We were looking for a spark,” Jones said. “We were looking for some energy. I'll know more about how they played when I watch the video.”
When asked specifically about his quarterback situation moving forward, Jones said he had two good ones.
“I think we have two very capable quarterbacks that we will continue to work with,” Jones offered.
My belief is that Quinten Dormady is the Vols quarterback moving forward. But if the junior won't run the whole offense, which includes quarterback runs, then the question has to be asked what direction does that quarterback situation go moving forward.
Another question coming out of Saturday's win is the offensive line, particularly left guard. Jack Jones was replaced by Venzell Boulware in the starting lineup. At one point, Drew Richmond was replaced by Marcus Tatum. Of course, Jashon Roberston missed the whole game at center and the Vols had their worst day up front rushing for only 135 yards and they gave up 12 tackles for loss.
Who's the placekicker for the Vols? Brent Cimaglia missed a 45 yard kick. Aaron Medley made a 40 yard kick, just the 10th in 22 career tries for him beyond from 40 yards and beyond. Who does Jones use next week from 42 yards?
Defensively, Tennessee only gave up 281 yards and had 7 sacks and 12 total tackles for loss. But Bob Shoop's defense gave up a 30-yard run on UMass' first scoring drive and a 21-yard play on the their second as chunk plays continue to haunt a Shoop led defense.
The reality is that four games in we still do know the identity of Team 121. Now, they will play better next week against Georgia. The focus will be better, the preparation will be better.
But how good are the Vols? We still don't know. How much have they improved since Week One? Fair question.
Who will give them a chance next week? No one, as questions from Saturday's win will evolve into a week's worth of questions heading into the Vols home opening SEC game.