Vols’ Kelly Scores 4 TDs; Defense Comes Up With Clutch FG Block
Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady (12) hands off to running back John Kelly during Monday’s season-opening game against Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Kelly scored four touchdowns in the Vols’ thrilling 42-41 double-overtime victory.
– photo by Dennis Norwood
Beaten badly for three quarters, Tennessee rallied and found a way to beat Georgia Tech 42-41 on Monday in a wild college football game at the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium before a crowd of 75,107.
“In the first half, offensively I did not think we played to our standard and expectation,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “In the second half, Marquez Callaway sparked us and made some very key plays.
“John Kelly sparked us as well. He played with passion and energy and toughness and a will to win.”
Kelly’s 2-yard touchdown run, his fourth of the game, and Aaron Medley’s kick provided the Vols (1-0) with the double-overtime victory in their NCAA-record 20th overtime contest. The Vols are now 13-7 in overtime games and no team has won more.
Georgia Tech (0-1), which punished the Vols’ defense for a stunning 655 yards of offense that included giving up a UT-record 535 on the ground, came back with a TaQuon Marshall 13-yard TD run.
However, Tennessee’s Darrel Taylor stopped Marshall in his tracks on a 2-point attempt, his desperation pass to KirVonte Benson hit the turf and the Vols escaped with a spine-tingling win to open the 2017 season.
“I was sorely disappointed in the outcome,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where you run (95) plays and have 655 yards and lose.”
Marshall scored five touchdowns, rushed for 249 yards and carried the ball 44 times as the Yellow Jackets pummeled Tennessee’s defense throughout the game.
He set game records for most points (30), touchdowns, most rushing touchdowns, most yardage and most carries.
As for the final play, Marshall said: “We had the numbers on the backside. I reversed and tried to get outside of it. They overran us and it might have been a little selfish of me. But, you’ve got to put it in the past and move on.”
Georgia Tech, playing Tennessee for the first time since 1987, had a 28-14 lead less than two minutes into the fourth quarter and appeared ready to put the Vols away.
Suddenly, quarterback Quinten Dormady, who went 8 for 20 in the first half, started finding receivers who started catching the ball.
Dormady connected with Marquez Callaway on a 50-yard TD play and Tennessee pulled to within one score with 11:49 left in regulation. The play capped a 61-yard, five-play drive. Callaway caught four passes for 115 yards and grabbed a 10-yard TD pass in the third quarter. His two TD receptions tied a game record.
Callaway became Dormady’s top target after Jauan Jennings did not playing in the second half after suffering an apparent left arm or shoulder injury in the second quarter.
“When we first found out (about Jennings), we were still on the field,” Callaway said. “They told us Jauan might be out because of a wrist injury, but it’s only a minor setback for a major comeback. He’ll be back.”
With under 5 minutes to play, Tech’s Benson fumbled and Micah Abernathy pounced on the loose ball at the Tennessee 7.
“It was kind of a scramble drill,” Abernathy said. “I came from the sideline and tried to run to the ball as fast as I could. I could see Rashaan Gaulden and I just tried to play off of him.”
Said Tech coach Johnson: “The fumble killed us. I think we’ve got the game in control and if we score there, run the clock down, I’m not sure they would have had enough time to score twice. But we didn’t, they did. You give them credit.”
Kelly ended the gut-check 93-yard, seven-play drive by scoring on an 11-yard scamper and Medley’s kick tied the game at 28-all with 1:29 remaining.
Georgia Tech marched right down the field and set up Sean Davis for a 36-yard field goal with three seconds to go.
Jones called two timeouts to hopefully rattle Davis. When the ball was snapped, Davis got off a low-trajectory kick and it was blocked by Paul Bain, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior from Powder Springs, Georgia.
“All week long I’ve been saying I’ll make the most of my opportunities,” Bain said. “God just blessed me a the right place, right time and with the right ability. We’re just cut from a different cloth than a lot of teams. We were made for this and pressure-filled situations. We never had doubt, even though we were down.”
Marshall scored on a 1-yard run in the first overtime.
Tennessee countered with Kelly’s 1-yard run to set up the hectic final minutes in the second OT.
Kelly scored on runs of 1, 11, 1 and 2 yards while rushing for 128 yards, which were all but 20 of the Vols’ 148 yards on the ground. He averaged 6.7 yards on 19 carries.
Dormady was 20 for 37 for 221 yards and two touchdowns, both to Callaway, covering 10 and 50 yards.
The Vols finished with 369 yards of total offense.
While Tennessee’s defense struggled mightily against Tech’s triple-option offensive attack, it came up with the play of the game to stop a potential winning 2-point conversion play.
Linebackers Daniel Bituli and Colton Jumper turned in superlative efforts.
Bituli, a sophomore from Antioch, Tennessee, made an astounding 23 tackles, 11 of them solo stops. He forced one fumble.
“The coaches did a good job of game planning,” Bituli said. “We got the job done. You saw how many times they ran. That was ridiculous. They love it. It turned out for the best though.”
Jumper, who played prep ball at Baylor in Chattanooga and originally walked on at Tennessee, was credited with 18 tackles.
Lawrence Austin was Tech’s leading tackler with seven.
For most of the game Tennessee’s defenders were struggling against the Jacket’s vaunted ground-oriented offense that chews up clock time like a competitor in a holiday hot-dog eating contest.
That enabled Georgia Tech to pile up a massive edge in time of possession – 41:27 to 18:33.
Marshall did most of the damage, scoring on runs of 1, 1, 6, 1 and 13 yards. He completed 5-of-9 passes for 120 yards.
Benson, a sophomore from Marietta, Georgia, rushed 24 times for 124 yards and a 1-yard touchdown.
NOTES: Trevor Daniel set a game record with his 70-yard punt … Saturday’s Alabama-Florida State game in the same stadium drew 76,330 … Tennessee and Georgia Tech were founding members of the SEC in 1932 … Tennessee won’t have time to think about Monday’s win. The Vols will host Indiana State at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on The SEC Network. Georgia Tech will host Jacksonville State.
Tennessee 0 7 7 14 7 7– 42
Georgia Tech 7 7 7 7 7 6 – 41
GT – TaQuon Marshall 1 run (Shawn Davis kick), 0:06
UT – John Kelly 1 run (Aaron Medley kick), 8:11
GT – KirVonte Benson 1 run (Davis kick), 1:11
GT – Marshall 1 run (Davis kick), 9:19
UT – Marquez Callaway 10 pass from Quinten Dormady (Medley kick), 0:42
GT – Marshall 6 run (Davis kick), 13:08
UT – Callaway 50 pass from Dormady (Medley kick), 11:49
UT – Kelly 11 run (Medley kick), 1:29
GT – Marshall 1 run (Davis kick)
UT – Kelly 1 run (Medley kick)
UT – Kelly 2 run (Medley kick)
GT – Marshall 13 run (run failed)
First Downs 18 33
Rushes-Yds 22-148 86-535
Passing Yards 221 120
Comp-Att-Int 20-37-0 5-9-0
Total Yards 59-369 95-655
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Punts-Avg 6-47.0 3-46.0
Penalties-Yds 0-0 1-7
RUSHING – Tennessee: John Kelly 19-128, Quinten Dormady 2-132, Ty Chandler 1-7; Georgia Tech: TaQuon Marshall 44-249, KirVonte Benson 26-124, Nathan Cottrell 6-79, J.J. Green 1-36, Qua Searcy 6-34, Quaide Weimerskirch 2-10, Matthew Jordan 1-3.
PASSING – Tennessee: Dormady 20-37-0-221; Georgia Tech: Marshall 5-9-0-120; Jordan 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING – Tennessee: Marquez Callaway 4-115, Kelly 5-35, Ethan Wolf 4-33, Jauan Jennings 3-17, Brandon Johnson 3-14, Josh Palmer 1-7; Georgia Tech: Ricky Jeune 2-55, Searcy 1-42, Brad Stewart 2-23.
(Contact Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @larryfleming44)
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)
TaQuon Marshall (16, with the ball) scored five touchdowns, rushed for 249 yards and passed for 120 but Georgia Tech blew a fourth-quarter lead and eventually lost to Tennessee, 42-41 in double overtime
– Photo2 by Dennis Norwood