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Four Downs: Utah St. Game By The Numbers
Sept. 2, 2014


By Brian Rice
UTSports.com

Each week, UTSports.com takes a look at the numbers from the weekend past and the weekend ahead in Four Downs. This week, a record number of new faces, a good day to play, the ball flying through the air and Third Down For What.

First Down: 32 - Vol Debuts

You were warned you would need to buy a program to identify many of the players on the field for Team 118. That warning proved correct on Sunday night. 32 players saw their first game action as Volunteers against Utah State, 21 of those true freshmen.

There were more than a few notables among the 21 freshmen, including three starters that charted new territory for Tennessee freshmen.

On offense, Ethan Wolf became the first true freshman to start a season opener at tight end since freshmen became eligible to play in 1972. Jashon Robertson, a defensive lineman when camp began, became just the fourth offensive lineman to start a season opener as a freshman. The other three had pretty decent careers.

Bill Mayo started the opener in 1981 and was an All-SEC and All-American while starting 46 of his 47 career games. Michael Munoz, likewise was an All-SEC and All-American performer who started the first 46 games of his career from 2000-2004 before an injury ended his senior season. Ja'Wuan James started all 49 games of his career, setting a new UT record for starts by an offensive lineman and was a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

On defense, Derek Barnett's start at defensive end made him the first true freshman to open a season at a defensive line position in Tennessee history.

The 21 freshmen that played in the opener shattered the previous UT record for freshmen in a season debut that stood at 12, established in 2010 against UT-Martin and matched a season later in 2011 vs. Montana.

In all, 71 players saw the field for Tennessee against the Aggies, meaning 45 percent of the players on the field were seeing action for the first time.

Second Down: 31 - As in, August 31

With the success of the last three seasons, maybe Tennessee should find a way to open the season on Aug. 31 every year. Thanks to a couple of schedule adjustments for television purposes, the Vols have kicked off on the date each of the last three season, going 3-0 in those games.

UT opened the 2012 season on a Friday night in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. A dominating 35-21 win over North Carolina State was a spring board to one of the most prolific offensive seasons in Tennessee history.

In 2013, it was a customary Saturday evening start for UT at Neyland Stadium in a 45-0 shutout of Austin Peay. The win was the 800th in program history and kicked off the Butch Jones era at Tennessee in style.

Sunday's 38-7 win over Utah St. marked the Volunteers' first appearance on the new SEC Network and the second Sunday night game in Neyland Stadium history. The only other Sunday game at Neyland Stadium was a 42-17 win over UNLV to start the 2004 season on Sept. 5.

Tennessee is now 5-0 on Aug. 31, and has never lost a game in the eighth month. The Volunteers have played nine August games, with a 31-31 tie with eventual national champion Colorado in the 1990 Pigskin Classic the only blemish on an 8-0-1 record in the month.

Third Down: Quick Hits

273 - Justin Worley passing yards. The senior had his best night to date in orange, setting career highs in completions and attempts with a 27-38 performance that included a string of 13 consecutive completions after halftime. The 273 yards marked the second-highest total in his career, just behind the 291 he put up in the first start of his career against MTSU in 2011.

Worley's three touchdown passes tied a career high set against Austin Peay in last season's opener.

1 - Plays needed for Worley to find Brendan Downs for a 12-yard TD on UT's second scoring drive, set up by a Todd Kelly, Jr. fumble recovery.

102,455 - A sellout crowd in Neyland Stadium, the first sold out crowd for an opener since the 2007 meeting with Southern Mississippi, a 39-19 Vol win.

11 - First Downs allowed by the UT defense, the fewest allowed by Tennessee since holding Austin Peay to the same number in the 2013 season opener. It was the fewest first downs allowed against a FBS opponent since limiting Buffalo to 10 in 2010.

11 - Different players with a reception against Utah St., the most in a single game since the same number hauled in passes against Akron in 2012. Tennessee quarterbacks completed passes to 15 players in all of 2013.

8 - Yards covered on Pig Howard's touchdown run, the first rushing touchdown of his career and the first points of 2014 for Tennessee.

3- Third downs converted by Utah St. on 14 attempts. It marked the fewest third downs converted by an opponent since Austin Peay converted just two in the opener last season. It was the least by a FBS opponent since Florida went 3-13 on third down in 2012.

35 - Kick Return Yards for Devrin Young, who remained fourth on the all-time kick return list at Tennessee with 1,298. He needs nine yards to catch Corey Larkins (1,307) for third and is just 556 yards from Willie Gault's all-time record of 1,854.

10 - Tackles for Jalen Reeves-Maybin, a new career high, topping the three he recorded against Georgia last season. Reeves-Maybin had 11 tackles in all of 2013, playing primarily on special teams.

23 - Yards covered on A.J. Johnson's first-career interception, which he nearly returned for a touchdown. Marlin Lane finished a two-play drive with UT's final TD of the night moments later.

5 - Consecutive season-openers won by Tennessee.

12 - Consecutive home non-conference wins, a streak that dates back to 32-29 over UAB in 2010.

16 - Wins since 2000 over opponents in the initial meeting between the schools, as UT and Utah State met for the first time.

Fourth Down: A Look Ahead

1 - All-time wins against Arkansas St., Tennessee's opponent Saturday.

3 - Wins on Sept. 6, the date Tennessee hosts ASU and it's once again Football Time in Tennessee!

8 - Lettermen in UT history from the state of Arkansas. The last Vol to hail from The Natural State was Ricardo Kemp, a defensive back from 2005-07.

 

 

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