Tennessee Football: Turning points in 49-13 Win vs. Virginia

Tennessee Volunteers running back Jaylen Wright (0) runs through Virginia Cavaliers cornerback Sam Westfall (13) and safety Jonas Sanker (20) during their game at Nissan Stadium Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.
Tennessee Volunteers running back Jaylen Wright (0) runs through Virginia Cavaliers cornerback Sam Westfall (13) and safety Jonas Sanker (20) during their game at Nissan Stadium Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. /

While it might’ve seemed like Virginia had no chance this past weekend, there were several turning points throughout the game that led to Tennessee Football’s victory. 

The Volunteers started off relatively slow against the Cavaliers and weren’t able to turn it on until the second half, scoring-wise. Key moments, plays, and many factors went into the 49-13 victory…

Joe Milton III’s 4th and 5 conversion on the opening drive to score the first touchdown.

After a good kick return to start the game, the Vols started driving down the field. They eventually were stopped for a 4th down in the red zone, and this led to Milton making a fantastic read by finding Dylan Sampson for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

This was the perfect opening drive, and it helped settle the offense down some. This statement’s decision to go for it on 4th down showed the confidence that head coach Josh Heuepl has in his offense.

Josh Heupel’s decision to go for it on 4th down on their own 29-yard line fails.

Following the punt from Virginia on the previous possession, Heupel decided to double down on his earlier decision and go for it again, but this time on their own 29-yard line. While it was only 4th down and 1 yard to go, I still think going for it in your own territory in the first quarter is not the best decision, even if the Volunteers could convert.

After failing to convert, the Vols handed UVA prime field position, and at this time, the score was still only 7-0.

UVA running back Mike Hollins gets tackled for a loss by Jaylen McCollough on 2nd and goal.

Free Safety Jaylen McCollough flew through the backfield to get a massive stop on 2nd and goal, which was a monster play to give UVA a long third down and goal. This play felt like a statement for the defense, and it was needed to make them have to kick the field goal after failing to convert on third.

Virginia ended up missing the field goal on this drive, which might not have happened if it wasn’t for this huge play.

UVA quarterback Tony Muskett gets sacked by James Pearce Jr. for a loss of 7 yards on 3rd down.

Following three and out by the Vols, UVA was finally trying to get back on track with the offense after the missed field goal. The hope that the Cavaliers were holding onto felt like it was crushed when Pearce came flying into the backfield on this big third down.

Tennessee goes 9 plays, 75 yards, and a touchdown to close out the half 21-3.

This felt like the dagger into the UVA team by going the distance in less than 2 minutes to score and go up 18. There is a massive difference between leading 14-3 and 21-3 at halftime, and this drive made all the difference.

It felt like the Cavaliers lost any amount of hope they had remaining after this drive, and the rest was history.

Vols start quickly in the third quarter, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives.

Whatever Josh Heupel said in that locker room at halftime needs to be said during halftime at every game. The Vols looked like they were shot out of a cannon to start the second half, and it was both the offense and defense.

Tennessee’s defense stepped up by forcing a three and out for UVA, turning around and going ten plays and a touchdown, then on the next drive, forcing a turnover on downs, and turning around and scoring yet another touchdown in just six plays.

This was indeed the nail in the coffin, and Tennessee was able to walk its way into victory.

dark. Next. Tennessee Football: Three Takeaways From Vols’ 49-13 Win vs. Virginia

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