KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.
Tennessee overcame a lackluster performance to take a 17-13 victory over UMass on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
The win moves Tennessee to 3-1.
“We needed to get win number three, and we got win number three,” said head coach Butch Jones. “At the end of the day it’s all about getting the victory, but the performance was just flat out unacceptable and we’ll get back to work tonight and we will work to correct it.”
John Kelly rushed for 101 yards and Quinten Dormady threw for 187 yards for the Vols.
Tennessee (3-1, 0-1 SEC) got off to a slow start in the opening quarter, but turned things up in the second quarter by scoring two touchdowns to take a 14-6 lead into the half.
The Vols got on the board first when Kelly scored his sixth touchdown of the season with a 12-yard run, which was set up by a 66-yard pass—Tennessee’s longest play from scrimmage this season—from Dormady to Brandon Johnson. Kelly’s score gave the Vols a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
UMass (0-5) followed up the Vols’ opening score with one of its own, as quarterback Ross Comis ran it in from five yards out to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive. The Minutemen missed the ensuing PAT to keep the Vols on top, 7-6.
Dormady got the Vols on the board again before the end of the half, when he hit Tyler Byrd for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone to give Tennessee a 14-6 lead at the half.
Kelly rushed for 80 yards in the first half, while Dormady threw for 154 yards with one touchdown. Tennessee also was 5-for-9 on third downs and had 261 yards of total offense at the break.
The Big Orange defense held the Minutemen to just 161 yards of total offense in the first half and sacked quarterback Andrew Ford twice. UMass converted just two third downs in the first half.
“I did think our defense really stepped up with we needed it,” said Jones. “We forced 10 punts and had seven sacks and thought they changed the line of scrimmage toward the end of the game.”
Tennessee’s Aaron Medley got the scoring going in the second half when he kicked a season-long 40-yard field goal to cap a six-play, 18-yard drive as Tennessee extended the lead to 17-6.
The Minutemen countered, as they took their second drive of the half 75 yards in 4:41 before a 13-yard touchdown pass from Ford to Sadiq Palmer cut UT’s lead to 17-13.
Tennessee’s defense buckled down and held on to preserve the Vols’ perfect home record, holding the Minutemen to just 281 yards of total offense. UMass finished 3-for-14 on third-down conversion attempts and failed to convert on fourth-down.
Tennessee also had seven sacks, 12 TFLs and broke up six passes. The Vols’ seven sacks were their most since recording seven against Vanderbilt on Nov. 22, 2008. UT’s top tackler on the day was Quart’e Sapp, who recorded nine stops. Linebacker Colton Jumper logged 3.5 TFLs, including 2.5 sacks.
The Tennessee offense, led by Dormady and Kelly, finished the day with 319 total yards—with 184 of those coming in the air. Johnson finished with career-highs for receptions (seven) and receiving yards (123).
Kelly’s 101 yards on the ground marked his second 100-yard rushing game this season.
Tennessee punter Trevor Daniel finished the game with and averaged 48.9 yards on eight punts.
The Big Orange host Georgia next Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET.