Tennessee 59 Ball State 10: A Pleasant Evening

There’s a psychological component to looking up and seeing those orange V-O-L-S letters, I’ll tell you that much for sure. They last appeared in The Year of Our Lord 1998, we all file away in the back of our minds and the front of our hearts.

But nevermind going back that far just yet. On our list of things we haven’t seen much in just the last 15 years: a Tennessee win by this margin against an FBS foe. Lane Kiffin’s team beat Western Kentucky in their first full-fledged FBS game 63-7 in 2009. Before that, you’ve gotta go back to, you guessed it, 2007 to find the Vols beating Louisiana-Lafayette 59-7 to top tonight’s 49-point win. It was one of the more stress-free evenings in Neyland Stadium in about that many years too, and didn’t take long to get that way.


We’ve also apparently reached a point with this offense where you can think, “Hmm, this isn’t Hendon Hooker’s very best game,” and he’s 18-of-25 for 222 yards (8.9 per) with a pair of touchdowns and no picks. But one thing the Vols did for sure: spread that ball around. Ten different players caught a pass. Seven different players caught multiple passes; last year that never happened with more than five.

Something that came up in the opener last year too: Tennessee’s quarterback having so very much time to throw, you worry a little about them getting too comfortable before playing Pitt. Hendon Hooker was sacked once for a loss of one, and otherwise unthreatened. A good start for an offensive line that can really help this offense in that department.

Meanwhile, the Vols held Ball State to 5-of-14 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down. Here too, with plenty of room for improvement, the Vols took a good first step.

And Pitt just gave up 5.8 yards per carry to West Virginia, but we got the most desirable outcome: a Panther victory could setup a Top 25 showdown next Saturday.

But before all that, 92,236 showed up to watch the Vols on a Thursday night as a 35-point favorite. That’s the most for a home opener since 2018, and a sharp turn of events from early last season, when the Vols didn’t crack 90,000 for any home games other than Ole Miss and Georgia. In attendance, the closest comparison to last night since 2010 is the BYU game in 2019 (92,475). That’s a healthy, real-life sign of what Josh Heupel and these guys have accomplished since last year, when 82,203 came to the Pitt game.

All told, we got minimal stress, maximal health, a fun season-opening win that didn’t reveal much too much about this team. We’ll spend the next week hopeful the Panthers will discover we’re still full of surprises.


Go Vols.

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