Tennessee had to do what it needed to do against Tennessee Tech.

There was no escaping the detrimental loss to unranked South Carolina last week on top of the departure of star running back Jalen Hurd following the loss, and there was really no escaping the noise and clutter by playing in-state FCS foe Tennessee Tech.

But the game had to be played and Tennessee came out of it, as expected, with a victory. The Vols had no problem from the beginning in a 55-0 against the Golden Eagles.

What I liked

The Vols came out and used Josh Malone early in the game. Malone was an advantage for Tennessee against Tennessee Tech, and it’s good from a confidence standpoint that the deep ball was used early and often during the win. The junior receiver finished with 5 receptions for 112 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. How much of the deep ball will the Vols use going forward to close out the season? That remains to be seen, and that’s still a question that has not been answered all season within the offense.

John Kelly received the start in the absence of Jalen Hurd (transfer) and Alvin Kamara (injury). The sophomore from Detroit rushed for 104 yards and scored one touchdown. Kelly has been a reliable factor in the Tennessee running game since the Texas A&M game and is gaining valuable experience with production going into the end of the season and looking forward to next year. A spark from the quick and versatile Kelly could lift the offense’s productivity with three SEC games remaining.

What I didn’t like

Pass completions for 30 yards and 17 yards by Tennessee Tech on the opening drive brings up questions again about the defensive pass coverage and where it stands in the final three games against Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Is the pass defense for Tennessee good enough to close out the season on a winning note?

As expected, the offensive scheme remained the same, but there were no extra wrinkles that were added in to work on in a game that could have provided game reps for new plays.

Who’s the man

Derek Barnett. Plain and simple. The junior defensive end was causing havoc in the backfield in what little playing time he had. Normally, this would not stand out against a team like Tennessee Tech, but Barnett has proven to be one of the best defensive ends in the country.

Up next

The Vols are now bowl-eligible at 6-3 and now play host to SEC East foe Kentucky next Saturday. The Wildcats have turned things around since losing their first two games to Southern Miss and Florida, defeating South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri in conference play. Butch Jones stands at 3-0 against Kentucky while at Tennessee, but that does not mean anything after he took a 3-0 record against South Carolina last week and lost.

The Vols will need to bring a complete game for four quarters, something they have not put together during their first eight games.