Vols Blank the Governors: 45-0
Austin Peay Recap
Justin Worley did exactly what his coaches were looking for in Tennessee’s season opener. The junior quarterback managed nerves, an overmatched Austin Peay defense and a Tennessee offense chock full of inexperienced players.
“I thought Justin managed the game outstanding,” head coach Butch Jones said following UT’s 45-0 win. “He hit a couple of hot throws. When he was hot, I thought he had great command. I thought he had great poise. I told him you can’t be emotional. You have to be the coach. It is like a surgeon, you have to be poised and disciplined and I thought he was.”
Worley finished UT’s season opener with 104 yards passing. He completed 11-of-13 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I thought we were efficient, but again as the competition continues to grow we have to be able to make the routine throws,” Jones said. “I know Justin (Worley) statistically had 11 out of 13 and would probably like to have the two throws back and one of them in the red zone. Again, it was a great teaching point. The thing I liked most was that we were efficient.”
Although he didn’t specify, one of those throws that Jones would like to have back was likely Worley’s underthrown pass to receiver Marquez North. The freshman had broken free on a deep route but the pass was badly short. Still, North looked impressive. He caught three passes for 33 yards.
North would have scored on a slant route had Worley not thrown a pass behind him near the goal line. North was forced to reach back for the pass causing him to slip.
“We expected a lot from our receivers just from terms of receptions but also in terms of blocking,” Jones said. “I thought he did a lot of good things and there are a lot of good things to build upon.”
UT’s offensive tempo is a key factor for Jones. The Vols seemed to move quickly under Worley. Things seemed to slow under Nathan Peterman when the backup entered the game in the second half.
“I thought at times we played relatively fast and at times we slowed down,” Jones said. “Now we aren’t in up tempo all the time. We have four different tempos, so we change it up and all of that. I would still like to get a little bit faster.”
Offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson said he was pleased with the tempo UT showcased under Worley.
“He controlled the line of scrimmage,” Richardson said. “That is the biggest thing you can ask from him. I didn’t really have to turn around a lot to hear him, he yelled a lot and did well…His confidence definitely grew…I saw in his eyes that he was comfortable and it was really good to know, that since this was his first start, that he was comfortable with us.”
The Vols rushed for 315 yards against Austin Peay. Tailback Rajion Neal accounted for 141 yards on 16 carries.
“They definitely gave me a great push and great reads,” the senior said. “They just jump started me the whole game and gave me something to work with every time.”
Neal’s highlight was a a 47-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that was the opening score of the game.
“It was nice; I can’t lie,” Neal said. “It was set up kind of perfect. O-line stretched it, took my read, then my receivers just helped me out by pinning one and I just walked it down the sideline.”
Neal’s veteran offensive linemen didn’t seem surprised by their tailbacks performance.
“He ran really well tonight,” offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson” said of Neal. “He read his keys and came off our hips, so it was really good to see him do that. It gives us confidence early.”
The Vols scored on all six trips inside of the 20-yard line. That was a goal for Jones.
“That was part of the plan to win,” Jones said. “You have to win the red zone. Defensively you have to force your opponents to kick field goals. Offensively you have to score touchdowns. I thought we did an outstanding job. Everything becomes larger in the red zone because of rhythm, spacing and timing.
“The depth and everything shrinks, so the windows become that much smaller. Your routes have to be perfect and you have to protect the quarterback. You can’t have tipped footballs. There is so much that goes into executing in the red zone.”