Defense dominates Jones' first Orange & White Game

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 7:39pm

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — New Tennessee coach Butch Jones is making a favorable first impression off the field.

Only time will tell if his first Tennessee team can have a similar impact on the field this fall.

The first Orange & White Game of Jones' tenure Saturday drew a crowd of 61,076, the second-highest total ever for a Tennessee spring game. As early as 3 a.m., people started lining up for a pregame autograph session with Jones and the players that eventually drew an estimated 25,000 fans.

But the actual game showed Tennessee still has plenty of work ahead as it attempts to bounce back from three straight losing seasons.

The game matched the offense against the defense, with the defense representing the Orange team and the offense making up the White team. The Orange won 95-71 under a complicated scoring system that awarded points for big achievements by each unit.

"I'm very encouraged by what I see, but obviously there's a lot of work that needs to be done in the next couple of months," Jones said. "I'm encouraged with our leadership. I can feel this football team getting closer and closer together. But we have to get a lot better over the summer months."

Justin Worley and Cody Blanc connected on a 58-yard completion for the offense's lone touchdown. The only other touchdown came on a 62-yard interception return by walk-on defensive back Max Arnold.

Tennessee's offense is struggling to replace quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, who bypassed their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft. The biggest performer on offense Saturday was Alden Hill, who rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries.

"We have to find playmakers," Jones said.

Worley went 8 of 18 for 123 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nathan Peterman was 9 of 23 for 98 yards, including a 48-yard completion to Vincent Dallas. Jones said after the game their quarterback competition will continue into the summer, with freshmen Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson also getting a chance to make their cases after they arrive on campus.

"It was a little sloppy — too many penalties, too many (missed assignments) that we can easily fix," Worley said of the offense's performance. "Just little small things. This summer's going to be huge for us as a whole offense to work on those small things and progress in our tempo and things like that."

Freshman Corey Vereen, who enrolled at Tennessee in January shortly after graduating from high school, recorded four sacks in the first half. Brian Randolph had a 37-yard interception return.

Michael Palardy made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder that bounced off the crossbar on the final play of the first half.

Jones' first spring game brought more than 500 former Tennessee players back to campus, including 2009 Jim Thorpe Award winner Eric Berry and Al Wilson, a linebacker and team captain on the 1998 national championship team. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster worked as a disc jockey on the stage that was set up in one corner of Neyland Stadium.

"Coach Jones has just established an environment where football is fun for us," defensive lineman Jacques Smith said. "It's no longer like a job or just something that you must do, where you come to work just to get put down. He's boosted our confidence. He's made it fun again."

This marked just the second time since 1987 that an Orange & White Game drew more than 36,000 fans. The record crowd remains 73,801 in 1986.

4 Comments on this post:

By: 4gold on 4/21/13 at 8:33

LOL, UT drew more for the spring game than will show up for last game of the season. Jones is a man headed for a face plant no doubt. What a goober.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: 4gold on 4/21/13 at 8:42

Hmmmh, one touchdown going against the last years worst defense in the SEC? JONES is DEAD MAN WALKING. Can you say moving van?

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!UT

By: topsman97 on 4/21/13 at 8:50

I'm a fellow Vandy fan, but I'm not sure why some of us think that Butch Jones is a goober. I do think that UT will do a face plant this year. There doesn't appear to be enough talent and experience on the offensive side of the ball this fall. In addition, UT's defense was so horrible last year, that they could improve 100%...and still be a bad defense.

Having said that, it is just foolish to think Butch Jones is a goober. His first recuriting class was ranked just behind Vandy's and he had only two months to pull it together. This year's recruiting class is already ranked in the Top by one rating service.

I think it would be wise for us to focus on the improvement of our program and forget about UT. The Vawls will improve in a couple of years and Vanderbilt better to be ready. There is a chance for UT-Vandy to become a true rivalry real soon. Truthfully, I'm looking forward to it. I want to beat UT when they are at their best, so I don't have to hear all the pathetic excuses for why they lost.

By: 4gold on 4/22/13 at 7:38

If Goober Jones gets any decent players to commit to the Ugliest campus in the SEC he will surely be back on probation and ousted along with the last three coaches very soon. He must be making out landish promises.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!