FOOTBALL PREVIEW: No. 15 Tennessee vs. Akron

Photo Credit: Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
By Chris Clark

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers (2-0) play host to the Akron Zips (1-1) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in their third consecutive non-conference game to start the season. The matchup is a tale of two stories as one team is coming off an upset win on the road in overtime and the other got beat handily on the road.

The Vols overcame late turnovers and a blocked punt to hold on in overtime for a 34-27 win against Pitt last week in the second edition of the Johnny Majors Classic. Quarterback Hendon Hooker threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns while combining for 352 total yards of offense for the Vols. The game started slow for the offense after going down 10-0 in the first quarter, but it seemed it was only a matter of time before that fast paced offense got going.

“Our mentality is always just keep it going, keep pushing, next play mentality,” Hooker said after the win against then-No. 17 ranked Pittsburgh. “[W]e made great plays down the stretch, and we finished strong.”

One of those plays was the ultimate game winner in overtime to WR Cedric Tillman who recorded 162 receiving yards. Tennessee got the ball first in overtime and Hooker found Tillman in the endzone for a 28 yard touchdown. On defense, the Vols were able to force a long fourth-and-goal for the Panthers and prevented them from scoring to secure the win.

Akron, on the other hand, is coming off a 52-0 pummeling at the hands of Michigan State and saw their dual-threat starting quarterback go down late in the game. It will now be up to backup transfer QB Jeff Undercuffler Jr. to lead the Zips against the highly favored Vols. Undercuffler Jr. is a bigger than average QB coming in at 6-foot-5, 230 lbs. and had a lot of success at his former school, Albany, throwing for over 6,300 yards along with 59 TDs in four seasons.

Akron coach Joe Moorhead acknowledged that his usual game play style will have to shift with the offense no longer having that running threat from the quarterback.

“We have to build a game plan around what he does well and minimize his weaknesses,” said Moorhead.

On offense for the Zips, they have six receivers averaging over 11 yards-per-catch with senior WR Shockey Jacques-Louise leading the receiving core. However, only Jacques-Louise and fellow receiver Daniel George have recorded over 100 receiving yards so far this season.

The Vols will look to stay focused against their opponent ahead of their matchup with arch-rival Florida looming next week. Akron will try to rebound from an ugly loss on the road and prevent back-to-back losses at the hands of Top 15 teams.

Tennessee and Akron will kickoff at 7 p.m. on SECN+/ESPN+.