The Tennessee Volunteers played host to the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Thursday night to kickoff the season. Tennessee entered the season as a top-ten team and one of the favorites in the SEC.
Unfortunately for Butch Davis and the Vols, Appalachian State had other plans and it was not going to be a cake walk.
Tennessee came out with a strong defensive stand, but things quickly headed in the wrong direction. Cameron Sutton muffed a punt which led to a Tyler Lamb touchdown for the Mountaineers. The Vols answered with a field goal.
Then, things got worse.
Star linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin was ejected in the first quarter and a defensive lapse later in the half led to a 33-yard touchdown connection from Lamb to Marcus Cox which gave Appalachian State a 13-3 lead entering the half.
The Vols defense began to step up and held the Mountaineers scoreless in the third quarter, while Tennessee converted a field goal to pull without one possession. Joshua Dobbs then stepped up and launched a 67 yard touchdown pass to Josh Malone to even the score with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Was Appalachian State about to pull off another stunner nine years to the date of when they knocked off Michigan?
Throughout the game, the Mountaineers’ biggest key moments came on special teams and that continued into the fourth quarter. After forcing a punt from the Vols, Jaquil Capel put together a 42 yard punt return to set up Appalachian State with good field positioning at the Tennessee 31-yard line.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Tennessee’s defense was playing at a high level and forced negative yardage on two of the team’s three plays to set up a 42-yarder for the lead which was unsuccessful.
With five minutes left, we remained knotted at 13 points a piece.
The Vols following possession left a lot to be desired — a fumble and a sack — giving Appalachian State one more opportunity to score the go-ahead points with time winding down. The Mountaineers were driving, but poor clock management never allowed Appalachian State to get in field position, falling just short at the 30-yard line as the game clock expired, forcing overtime.
Tennessee was on offense to start the overtime period and an incredible effort from Joshua Dobbs at the goal line led to a fumble recovery in the endzone to put the Vols ahead. It was nearly disastrous, as Dobbs took a huge shot to the ribs, but the ball rolled in their favor.
Tennessee converted the point after to take a 20-13 lead.
It was do or die time for Appalachian State.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, their valiant effort fell short as the Vols defense was able to once again step up with a huge stop to avoid an embarrassing upset to start what was supposed to be a season with College Football Playoff hopes. The final score was 20-13.
Tennessee returns to action next weekend against Virginia Tech in the Battle of Bristol.