Dormady, Guarantano show good, bad in win over Sycamores
KNOXVILLE — Quinten Dormady solidified his spot as Tennessee’s starting quarterback through the offseason, but it was just a matter of time before Jarrett Guarantano got his chance.
That happened like many thought on Saturday night in the No. 25 Vols’ home-opening 42-7 victory over Indiana State.
Tennessee head coach Butch Jones made Guarantano aware he’d see the field, but when he would wasn’t made known. With a 14-0 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Lodi, N.J., native trotted out for his first UT snap.
Guarantano handed the ball off to John Kelly three consecutive plays before attempting a pass, getting clobbered by Adrian Bulter. His next two passes fell incomplete, though the third was a well-placed ball that Jeff George couldn’t haul in.
“It really wasn’t scripted. I told him to be ready that it could be the second, it could be the third series and it was kind of a feel thing,” said Jones of inserting Guarantano. “I thought he had a very good week of preparation. I liked his mindset, along with Quinten, in terms of taking the mental reps of when they weren’t in.
“Anytime you get repetitions, they are invaluable at the end of the game. Now, you can go in and watch the video and really watch yourself and learn from it. I thought that was really, really productive. Again, I’m excited about the things we saw from both quarterbacks. I liked the way they managed the line of scrimmage.”
His next series was much better, starting the drive with an 18-yard pass to Kelly and leading the team on a five-play, 60-yard drive that Carlin Fils-aime capped with a 30-yard cut-and-go rushing touchdown, 21-0 lead.
Tennessee (2-0) went back to Dormady on the next two drives, and while the first one resulted in a three-and-out, the junior signal caller illustrated why he’s the Vols’ starter on the next.
On third-and-6 from the 19 with less than a minute to go in the half, Dormady saw the Sycamores set up in a flat-out, no-deep cover zero defense and elected to audible out. It proved huge as he connected with Brandon Johnson on his back shoulder for the sophomore’s first-career score.
“It was just a coverage we talked about it all week,” Dormady said. “We didn’t do it the previous week like we thought (Georgia Tech) would, but they brought it tonight and really they hadn’t shown a whole lot of it. But with a whole week preparing for that with Georgia Tech, once I saw it, I went ahead and made the check. I gave Brandon, basically, an inside fade and he made a play.”
Dormady finished the first half nearly perfect, completing 10 of 12 passes for 123 yards and his lone touchdown, but the second half wasn’t as pretty. He attempted six more passes, completing three, but had two turnovers on back-to-back drives to start the third quarter.
The first was a fumble that Rex Mosley hit just right out of Dormady’s hands, while the second was a red zone interception. He said he missed the corner falling off the route and knew it was a mistake when the ball was released.
Jones described the two turnovers as things the Vols “can’t do and need to improve on.” The starting quarterback echoed his coach, saying it’s on his list of emphasis.
“I think I just need to try and keep getting better and make smart decisions with the football,” Dormady said. “I had a poor one tonight, try to erase that and move forward.”
Even after the two turnovers, the first resulting in Indiana State’s only touchdown, Tennessee gave the ball back to its starting quarterback.
Dormady redeemed himself, leading the Vols on a four-play, 50-yard drive that went for a Marquez Callaway 37-yard touchdown, his lone catch of the night and third touchdown of the season, 35-7 lead.
Guarantano, who finished 4 of 12 for 41 yards, led the charge the rest of the way. Though he struggled in his first fourth-quarter drive, he bounced back in the next.
In-between drives, Dormady approached the redshirt freshman, and whatever he said worked. Guarantano took his last series for 12 plays, picking up his first-career touchdown, an 11-yard strike to Jeff George with 56 seconds remaining.
Jones said he liked what he saw from his two quarterbacks, but will know more as he looks through film today.
“I thought we left some plays out there in the first half, but again, when you look at the efficiency of throwing the football, I thought they did some good things,” the fifth-year head coach said. “I’m very, very encouraged and excited about that. Both these individuals need to continue to gain valuable repetitions.”