Vols rip East Tennessee State 59-3 after 2nd-quarter flurry
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee needed just a week to figure out the proper response to a weather delay.
The Volunteers can only hope they catch on as quickly to everything else under new coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Tennessee reeled off 28 second-quarter points in a span of under 6 ½ minutes and breezed to a 59-3 triumph over Football Championship Subdivision program East Tennessee State in Pruitt’s home debut Saturday. The Vols scored three touchdowns in a span of 1 minute, 46 seconds.
That scoring outburst came after the threat of lightning halted play for 48 minutes early in the second quarter. That represented quite a change from last week, when Tennessee followed an hour-long halftime weather delay by getting outscored 27-7 in the second half of a 40-14 loss to No. 14 West Virginia.
“I think our strength staff, I think our support staff tried to create a little more juice when we came out on the field (after the delay),” Pruitt said. “Last week, when we got out there for whatever reason - it’s my fault - I didn’t see a lot of that.”
Jeremy Banks and Madre London each rushed for two touchdowns, Marquill Osborne scored on a blocked punt return and Darrin Kirkland Jr. scored on an interception return.
Tennessee led 10-0 but had struggled on offense before the weather delay, which occurred with 12:01 left in the half. On Tennessee’s first series after the delay, Jarrett Guarantano’s 51-yard completion to Marquez Callaway set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Banks with 9:27 remaining until halftime.
“We learned a lot from last week,” Callaway said. “Having another delay just like last week, we did do some things differently, we made some adjustments. I just feel like it was better execution.”
ETSU quarterback Logan Marchi’s pass on the next play from scrimmage was tipped by receiver Quan Harrison and picked off by Bryce Thompson, whose 21-yard interception return put Tennessee at the Bucs’ 3-yard line. Banks ran through the right side of the line into the end zone on first-and-goal.
Marchi’s next pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and caught by Kirkland, whose 33-yard interception return extended Tennessee’s lead to 31-0 with 7:41 left in the half. After Tennessee forced an ETSU punt, Josh Palmer scored on a 20-yard run to make it 38-0.
“That (flurry) obviously changed the game huge at that point,” ETSU coach Randy Sanders said.
ETSU (1-1) received $500,000 to make the trip to Knoxville and face a Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time since relaunching its program in 2015. The Buccaneers had stopped playing football after 2003 for financial reasons before bringing the sport back.
Tennessee athletic director and former coach Phillip Fulmer filled an advisory role for ETSU when the school revived its football program.
ETSU: Saturday’s game had an announced attendance of 96,464. ETSU’s average home attendance last year was 8,008. So it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that the stage often seemed a little too big for the Buccaneers. ETSU’s defense actually played quite well in the first quarter, but the Bucs’ breakdowns on offense and special teams enabled Tennessee to put this game out of reach early.
Tennessee: The Vols continued doing a nice job of avoiding mistakes under Pruitt. Tennessee avoided any turnovers for a second straight game Saturday and committed just three penalties.
WELCOME BACK, SANDERS
Sanders played quarterback for Tennessee from 1985-88 and was an assistant coach under Fulmer on the Vols’ 1998 national championship team. He received a nice ovation when highlights of his playing and coaching career at Tennessee aired on the Neyland Stadium video board.
“That distracted me for a second because I thought that was a really nice thing,” Sanders said. “I didn’t expect that at all. But it was special coming back. It was good to see everybody.”
Tennessee had three pass completions of 50-plus yards: Guarantano’s 51-yard connections to Palmer and Callaway plus backup Keller Chryst’s 50-yard touchdown to Jordan Murphy. Tennessee had just four pass completions of at least 50 yards all season last year.
ETSU is at Virginia Military Institute on Saturday.
Tennessee hosts UTEP on Saturday.
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