ATLANTA — The Vols came to Atlanta hoping to find their quarterback.
It took awhile — all spring, all fall camp and more than a half of Monday’s season opener against Georgia Tech, to be exact — but they might have found their guy.
Quinten Dormady, who got the start over redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, played every snap and led the Vols to an improbable, at times, unbelievable 42-41 victory in double overtime against Georgia Tech.
The first half wasn’t pretty, but the result sure was.
The offense was slow to get off the ground, with only seven total rushing yards in the opening quarter and 12 yards through the air.
Tennessee ran more efficiently with John Kelly in second quarter, but Dormady still struggled in the passing game. He finished the first half 8-for-20 for 52 yards. It was a mixture of off throws and drops.
Georgia Tech, which ran for 535 yards overall, actually had more success through the air than the Vols for much of the game.
Vols receivers never seemed in sync with Dormady in the first half. Kelly was the leading receiver with three receptions for 19 yards. Jauan Jennings reeled in three receptions for 17 yards before leaving with a wrist injury. He did not return.
Despite the sub-par first-half performance, Dormady opened the second-half as Butch Jones’ signal-caller.
After Georgia Tech missed a field goal that would have extended its lead to a three-possession game late in the third quarter. Dormady fed off the momentum and settled in to lead his best drive of the night, a 7-play drive for 70 yards in 2:32.
Offensive coordinator Larry Scott got a lot of players involved in the drive. Dormady even had a 7-yard run and Kelly ripped off a 30-yarder, but most of the damage was done through the air. Dormady completed four passes, the final one a 10-yard touchdown strike to Marquez Callaway to pull Tennessee within 21-14.
Dormady puts it on the money, and Callaway brings it down to keep the Vols in it pic.twitter.com/C8AGFu7pOD
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) September 5, 2017
After Georgia Tech scored on its ensuing drive, Dormady and the Vols answered. This time, Dormady hit Callaway on a mid-range out route, which Callaway turned into a 50-yard touchdown.
The Vols still trailed with 4:41 left when Dormady led them on a 93-yard drive to help force overtime.
Kelly ran for 34 yards — 11 on the tying touchdown — but the big play was Dormady’s 40-yard pass to Callaway.
Kelly and the run game did the heavy lifting in both overtimes. Kelly was the offensive star of the night — 128 tough yards, four touchdowns — but none of that would have been possible without the second-half passing.
Dormady finished 20-of-37 for 221 yards and two touchdowns. In a game that turned on a Georgia Tech fumble and a blocked field goal, Dormady played mistake-free football.
In the end, that was enough.