KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It wasn’t perfect, but the University of Tennessee Volunteers are walking away from their first 2023 appearance in Neyland Stadium with a 30-13 win.
The Austin Peay State University Governors made a statement in their opening drive, earning themselves a 3-0 lead off a 45-yard field goal from Maddox Trujillo. An edge on the scoreboard the Vols couldn’t break past until the final seconds of the first half.
Tennessee’s offense was quick to exit the field on their first two drives. The Vols finally caught a break when the Governors fumbled a Tennessee punt. With a Warren Burrell recovery, Tennessee found themselves in the red zone for the first time.
However the Vols had to settle for a field goal. Twenty-eight-yards through the uprights did more than just tie it up inside Neyland, it gave Tennessee native Charles Campbell his first field goal in a Vols uniform.
It became a battle of back-and-forth field goals in the first half, Trujillo finding his second from 34-yards to put the Govs back in command.
Tennessee’s struggle to connect in the air lessened as the first half trucked on, but no receiver on the Vols roster left a mark on the stat sheet until Bru McCoy in the second quarter.
Jabari Small started to find some success on the ground as the first quarter changed into the second, but after the burden of several penalties, the Vols again had to settle for a Campbell field goal. Success from 37-yards left the matchup even once again, 6-6.
Campbell took a break from putting points on the scoreboard and let Joe Milton get a crack at it late in the second. Six-yards straight up the middle gave the Vols their first lead of the day, 13-6 with 15 seconds remaining in the half.
The Vols carried that energy into the second half. Tennessee needed just a minute-and-a-half off the clock for Joe Milton to find Ramel Keyton in the end zone for a 20-6 lead.
Tennessee’s defense matched the same energy of the offense, sending the Governors away from their first second half drive with nothing.
Campbell made yet another appearance to split the uprights in the third quarter, he launched his third and final of the evening from 22-yards to extend the Vols lead, 23-6.
Tennessee wasn’t home free yet, with just over nine minutes remaining, Austin Peay’s Mike Diliello launched a 52-yard pass to Trey Goodman to make it a 10-point ballgame.
In less than a minute, Milton and McCallen Castles capped off a four play drive with a 34-yard touchdown to put the Vols’ lead back at 17.
Aaron Beasley was the highlight of the Tennessee’s defense. The linebacker finished with two sacks and five TFLs.
The Vols finished on top, 30-13.
Saturday’s attendance was 101,915. The home opener marks the seventh straight sellout of Neyland Stadium, the longest streak since 2006.