To defeat Texas A&M 20-13 on Saturday night, Tennessee football had to rely on its defense.
Josh Heupel, the head coach of Tennessee, had never won while his team was behind at the break. The victory over Texas A&M (4-3, 2-2) keeps the Vols (5-1, 2-1 SEC) in reach of many of their objectives, though they will aim to perform better the following week in Tuscaloosa.
“I feel like it is what it is,” linebacker Aaron Beasley said. “We can have days where we are not at our best, and we expect the offense to have our back and I feel like we had the offense’s back. And today, I feel like we had the offense’s back even though they weren’t having their best day. We had their back.”
There was probably no longer a larger run of special teams plays than Dee Williams’. The gifted punt returner scored his first touchdown as a gunner when he took down a punt at the 1-yard line.
“I wasn’t worried,” Williams said. “After I caught the ball, I looked down to see where my feet were. I just saw the ref and that it was down at the one. And I was like, ‘oh well.’”
The Aggies struggled to score with their backs to the end zone and the student section. From behind the end zone, the Aggies punted.
Williams made a play with the ball in his hands, which is what he does best.
With 6:47 remaining in the third quarter, the explosive runner pulled off a 39-yard punt return to give the Vols the lead. He not only restored Tennessee’s advantage but also sparked the sideline on a dull night.
“That’s a huge momentum swing play,” Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel said. “You know, offensively, we had gotten the ball in the plus side of it and hadn’t gotten anything out of it there in the last couple of drives, so a huge turning point in the ball game.”
Joe Milton III and the passing offense of the Vols had a bad night in the air. The seasoned passer completed 11 of 22 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Milton was fortunate that the ground assault was effective.
On 49 attempts, Wright and the running back group gained 232 yards. With 136 yards, Wright gave the signal.
One of the greatest defensive fronts in the SEC and the nation was brought into Neyland Stadium by the Aggies. Since Nov. 12, 2022, Texas A&M hasn’t allowed more than 232 yards against them.
According to Gabe Jeudy-Lally, there was no increased pressure on the defense when the offense started to have problems. The defense is not frequently required to step up like they were on Saturday night.
Heupel’s team managed to win on Saturday for the first time with fewer than 30 points scored. It was Heupel’s second-lowest total yardage total at Tennessee, and it was also the lowest passing yardage total during his time in Knoxville.
In a number of games, Tennessee’s defense has made a major difference for the Vols. For the majority of the evening, Texas A&M quarterback Max Johnson was still being pressured. Johnson suffered many blows on Saturday despite being sacked twice.
Only 54 yards were gained on the ground by Texas A&M.