4) Callaway’s Big Return
Late in the first quarter Tennessee led 7-0. It looked like the Vols were going to be pinned deep in their own end after a Charlotte punt. A penalty on the 49ers forced them to punt again. That’s when Tennessee junior Marquez Callaway took over. He caught the punt and then sprinted 82-yards for his second career punt return score.
On a day in which the Vols could only score seven points on offense, that cushion made things much more comfortable.
5) Reasons For Optimism?
Tennessee will need to win two of its final three games to make it to a bowl. The first two games are at home against Kentucky and Missouri, and the third contest is at Vanderbilt, which is basically Neyland Stadium West. Right now, none of those games are gimmies.
Kentucky’s defense and Missouri’s offense will pose problems for the Vols and Vanderbilt has beaten the Vols three of the past five years.
Vols fans who watched this Charlotte game can’t feel especially great about their prospects. While the defense played well, the offense was a mess. That combo was good enough to beat the 49ers… it probably won’t be good enough to earn those all-important December practices.
This stretch will be a test for head coach Jeremy Pruitt and this coaching staff. Each game is winnable if they can re-discover that Auburn win magic.
(Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction: The Road to Tennessee’s Crazy Coaching Search,” which takes an in-depth look at the ten years of frustration that led to a revolt by Vols fans after UT attempted to hire Greg Schiano as its head coach in 2017.)
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