Tennessee football’s zero sacks in Game 1 don’t matter – for now

Tennessee’s defense went sack-free in its first game of the season.

Now, this fact has settled for the Vols.

“We certainly were aware of that, being such an aware group that we are,” defensive end Tyler Baron said. “It’s definitely not what we wanted.”

UT (1-0) failed to get a sack for the first time since the 2020 season finale against Texas A&M, the last game under Jeremy Pruitt.

And this time it happened in a 59-10 win over Ball State, an inferior Mid-American Conference team seemingly ill-equipped to stop UT’s pass rush.

But UT coaches and players say there’s nothing to worry about ahead of Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) at Pittsburgh (1-0).

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” It was perfect ? Absolutely not,” defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. “But I thought for the most part these (pass rushers) did a good job performing what we asked them to perform. I felt good coming out of the game.

Notably, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina also didn’t record a sack in their opener.

The pass rush was better than you think

There were reasons for UT’s anomaly.

September 1, 2022;  Knoxville, Tennessee, USA;  Ball State Cardinals quarterback John Paddock (5) passes the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Neyland Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin - USA TODAY Sports

Ball State executed many quick screen passes that only take a second or two to complete. Other passing plays were designed for quick clearances, which negated UT’s passing rush but gained a few yards.

The Vols were generally happy with this trade. Only one Ball State drive passed the 50-yard line in the first half.

“We showed some flashes of what we want to be and what we’re capable of being,” Banks said. “I thought (the Ball State quarterback) did a good job getting rid of the ball quickly. But when he held it, I thought we applied some pressure.

Indeed, UT made an interception on the first play from scrimmage because linebacker Aaron Beasley applied pressure on a slow-developing Ball State passing play. It was the first of seven quarterback rushes credited to the Vols.

Pro Football Focus rushing ratings were more charitable. He gave high marks to Baron, defensive tackle Da’Jon Terry, linebacker Jeremy Banks, freshman defensive end Joshua Josephs and freshman linebacker Kalib Perry.

How Vols could get sacks against Pitt

What matters is whether UT can stop their one-game bagless streak.

Pitt has an experienced offensive line. But Southern Cal transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis was sacked five times in the Panthers’ 38-31 win over West Virginia. Only four FBS teams have allowed more sacks in their first game.

Pitt’s new offense relies on a powerful running game and play-action passing. They take longer to develop than Ball State’s fast passes, but also gain more yards.

Slovis passed for 308 yards and averaged 19.3 yards per completion. But the Vols should have opportunities to fire him.

“(Slovis) definitely has a very strong arm. He likes to keep his eyes on the pitch,” Baron said. “So we just need to press the pocket and make him uncomfortable, roll him in ways he doesn’t want to, get him out of the spot and make him throw the throws. difficult.”

Contact Adam Sparks at [email protected] and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

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