The second largest crowd in Orange & White game history gathered on Saturday afternoon to watch team 118 take the field publicly for the first time.
The 68,548 fans saw the offense (white) beat the defense (orange) by a final score of 129-100. Butch Jones and the Vols staff used a specialized scoring system that is way to complicated to even try to explain.
The story of the day was the performance of true freshman wide receiver Josh Malone.
The five-star from Gallatin, TN caught six passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, including a 79 yard touchdown reception off the arm of Josh Dobbs.
Butch Jones was quick to praise Malone after the game, saying “Malone can be as good as he wants to be”. He also added “Josh is a competitive man and very talented. You can see he adds another dynamic to our offense”.
Malone’s breakout performance overshadowed a solid day from sophomore wide receiver Marquez North.
North finished the day with 106 yards and one touchdown on five catches. His lone touchdown came on a 50 yard pass from Justin Worley.
You think the quarterback battle is down to just two guys?
The quarterback battle, which we thought was gaining some clarity earlier in the week, got a little murkier on Saturday.
Jones had previously said that Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson had separated themselves from the pack.
Worley and Ferguson both had productive days (even though Ferguson got beat around quite a bit), but Josh Dobbs was clearly the best quarterback on Saturday.
Dobbs completed six-of-nine passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 59 yard touchdown run that was aided by some poor tackling from Vol defenders.
Jones said after the game that the quarterback battle is “on-going” and that all four quarterbacks are still competing for the starting job.
Ferguson, who as we mentioned before spent a lot of time on his back early in the game, recovered from a slow start and looked especially sharp on a 19 yard touchdown pass to Cody Blanc.
While I don’t believe the battle is really among all four quarterbacks, I do believe that Dobbs is squarely in the mix with Nathan Peterman being the odd man out.
We didn’t play well
The one area of concern leaving the spring game for the Vols is their defense.
Curt Maggitt, the recipient of the first annual Al Wilson award for leadership, put it bluntly after the game, saying “Today was a tough day for the defense. We didn’t play well. We’ll watch film and correct our mistakes.”
Jones said after the game that he was particularly concerned with tackling, calling it “unacceptable”.
In addition to the poor tackling, D’Andre Payne got burned several times by Josh Malone — twice for a touchdown.
Payne, who is a early enrollee freshman, is expected to compete for a starting job this fall. Today’s performance, however, indicates that might not be a reality.
- Jakob Johnson will remain at defensive end.
- Matt Darr proved he is capable of replacing Michael Palardy with a 54 yard booming punt, but proved to be highly inconsistent with a 34 yard punt that looked terrible.
- Jones said he was very encouraged by the Vols’ “throw” game today.
- Tennessee escaped the spring game with no significant injuries.
- Corey Vereen, Jordan Williams, Owen Williams and Curt Maggitt played with the first team defensive line.
- The Vols had only one penalty (facemask) in the game.