4. Passing game has a lot to work out
All offseason, the talk about Josh Heupel was he was a quarterback guru. He then targeted Joe Milton III himself from the Michigan Wolverines and picked him to start over everybody on Tennessee football’s roster. Milton did show off his arm strength and mobility, but Heupel has a lot of work to do to validate his reputation and decision after Thursday.
Collectively, when you add in Hendon Hooker’s one pass late, the Vols completed 12-of-24 passes for 145 yards. Milton was just 11-of-23 for 140 yards. He missed Cedric Tillman wide open in stride on what should have been two easy touchdown passes.
To be fair this wasn’t all on Milton. Receivers had key drops, including one right over the middle by Jalin Hyatt that should have been a 3rd and long conversion in the red zone. Then there was the issue of that one play where the pass protection collapsed and Milton was strip-sacked by Darren Anders. Simply put, everybody struggled.
The good news is that these issues can be corrected in time. Milton also did finally hit Tillman for a long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. However, Tennessee football has to continue working in this area. A lot of problems with it were on display Thursday.