"I think this football team showed our grit, but we're continuing to evolve," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said after the victory. "We talked about three games in 13 days. We have to turn around now with a short work week and get into Neyland (Stadium) Saturday afternoon. We have to get a lot better and make tremendous progress, but just really proud of our players."
The win came at a big cost, though. Big-play receiver Jauan Jennings reportedly suffered a dislocated wrist and will miss up to 12 weeks. Jennings seemingly made all the big catches for the Vols last season and was the clear-cut leader of a young receiving corps.
They likely won't need him Saturday, when Indiana State visits Neyland Stadium for the Vols' home opener, but with a trip to The Swamp to take on the Gators coming in two weeks, Jennings will be missed.
Indiana State is coming off a 22-20 loss to Eastern Illinois. The Sycamores went 4-7 last season and will be overmatched talent-wise heading to Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday.
It is, however, a short week, after an emotional, physically taxing, double-overtime game for the Vols. And to be clear, they have plenty to work on, after getting off to a sluggish start offensively and surrendering 535 yards rushing to Georgia Tech.
Tennessee junior quarterback Quinten Dormady started and played the entire game. He threw two second-half touchdown passes to emerging receiver Marquez Callaway, including a 50-yard connection early in the fourth quarter that kept the Vols in the game. Dormady, in his first start, finished 20 of 37 for 221 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He led five scoring drives in the second half and overtime.
Callaway caught four passes for 115 yards, and junior running back John Kelly rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns, including both of the Vols' scores in overtime.
While the offense showed promise, especially in the second half, the defense has holes.
"We need to spend a lot of time on this video, but tackling, being able to -- we had way too many missed tackles," Jones said.
"We're confident and happy that we won," added Tennessee defensive back Micah Abernathy. "We have a short week and a quick game coming up. We're just trying to focus on that now."
Luckily for the Vols' defense, Indiana State doesn't possess Georgia Tech's patented option attack, but the Sycamores do have a dangerous running threat in senior LeMonte Booker.
Booker rushed for 165 yards on 31 carries and gave Indiana State a 20-16 lead with a 6-yard touchdown run with five minutes to play. But the Sycamores couldn't hold the lead and suffered a disappointing loss in their first game under new coach Curt Mallory.