Homecoming for the Tennessee Vols didn’t go as planned. The Vols looked relatively decent in the first half of the 55-23 loss to the No.9 Auburn Tigers. It seemed like they took advantage of opportunities with a forced fumble by Daniel Hood, a blocked extra point by big Daniel McCullers, a pick-6 by Jacques Smith on defense. But, as the first half rolled on, the Vols looked visibly deflated and significantly slowed down. They were able to keep the score close 34-20 in the first half, but that didn’t last long, as Tigers’ Corey Grant returned the opening kickoff of the second half.
The loss wasn’t surprising, but allowing the Tigers to pull away in the second half is concerning for the Vols. The Tigers were able to make enough adjustments to hold the Vols to only three points in the second half. The Vols seemed to digress as time went on, the opposite of how they have played at home all season. They have been 4-2 this season at home, losing only to Georgia in OT prior to this loss. While most teams play with a little more finesse at home, the Vols have looked like a whole different squad at home, even defeating No.11 South Carolina 20-23 three weeks ago. But even that wasn’t on the Vols’ side against Auburn. A quick start and the ability to capitalize on Tiger mistakes wasn’t enough to overcome several key penalties on third down throughout the game. The Vols’ defense wasn’t able to stop quarterback Nick Marshall, who had 14 carries for 214 yards.
True Freshman Joshua Dobbs started at quarterback for the Vols and was 16-of-25 for 128 yards, no touchdowns, an interception, and 49 rushing yards on 10 carries. The left side of the offensive line seemed to be a problem, often collapsing against Auburn’s pass rush leading Dobbs to be pressured and sacked twice.
The loss leaves the Vols at 4-6 overall, two games short of being bowl eligible. They have two games left on their schedule: Vanderbilt at home and Kentucky on the road. Both of these teams have improved immensely in the last year, and could prove to be a challenge for the struggling Vols.