It was a win for the Vols, but it wasn’t in the prettiest fashion.
Tennessee edged out a gritty 28-19 win over Ohio on Saturday inside Neyland Stadium.
“Our goal was to be 3-0 at this point, and we are 3-0, but I think everyone will tell you that we have to get a lot better as we start conference play next week,” Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones said.
The Vols moved to 3-0 for the first since 2004 with their ninth straight win dating back to last season.
The win wasn’t easy, however, as the Vols had to overcome a slow start as well as ball control.
“It is uncharacteristic,” Jones noted on if he was surprised with his team’s play despite the experience they have. “It’s something that these individuals haven’t done before. It’s a point of emphasis, and we have to improve on it and get better at it. It will be a point of emphasis every time we carry the ball. We will practice it. Thank goodness we haven’t turned the ball over much and that we have done a good job of recovering loose footballs, but I don’t know what else to tell you besides they are inexcusable plays and we will get better at it.”
Josh Malone had five catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
“In terms of Josh Malone, I’m really proud of him,” Jones said. “He’s really stepped up and made some big-time catches for us in some big-time situations. He had a couple touchdowns today. Again, he’s another individual who has grown in our program and he works exceptionally hard every day. Josh Malone has had a high level of consistency week-in and week-out, day-in and day-out in practice and it shows on gameday.”
Josh Dobbs went 19-of-27 passing for 203 yards with two scores. The quarterback also added 67 yards on 11 carries.
Jalen Hurd added 15 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The Vols struck quickly as Dobbs found Malone in the end zone the third-consecutive game on a 20-yard pass that split two defenders 38 seconds into the game. Kamara put the team in position with a 35-yard rush down the right sideline on the first offensive play of the game.
After back-to-back Bobcat field goals, the Vols extended their lead as Jalen Hurd leaped over the pile from one yard out to bring the score to 14-6. Jauan Jennings set up the score with a 17-yard reception, taking the ball down to the one on a bubble screen thanks to a good block from Malone on the outside. The Bobcats added two more field goals before halftime to make the score 14-12 entering the break.
The Vols added seven more in the third quarter as Dobbs capped a seven-play, 55-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The senior quarterback took the shotgun snap and was able to shake an unblocked defender in the backfield before taking off on a sprint to the end zone.
The Bobcats answered that score with a four-yard touchdown pass from Greg Windham to Jordan Reid after a play-action fake that brought Ohio back within 21-19.
Tennessee was able to push its lead to two scores as Hurd started the fourth quarter with an emphatic 28-yard run, leaving a trail of Ohio defenders in his wake down the left side of the field. The drive concluded with Malone’s second 20-yard touchdown catch of the game. Dobbs floated the ball to Malone who was able to get behind the Bobcat defense to catch his fourth touchdown of the season.