KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee was uninspiring, offensively at least, in its comfortable 24-0 win against North Texas on homecoming on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
The Volunteers know they'll need more to close out the regular season with wins against Missouri and Vanderbilt that would give them an 8-4 season.
But first, let's look back at Saturday's victory.
Alvin Kamara was a bright spot for an offense that was otherwise listless. The running back recorded his second 100-yard game of the season with a 127-yard performance and scored two touchdowns, which gave him 10 total (six rushing, three receiving and one punt return) for his debut season. Kamara impressively has scored multiple touchdowns in five of Tennessee's 10 games this season.
Tennessee pitched its first shutout since the 2013 season opener, when the Vols blanked Austin Peay in a 45-0 win. It was the first shutout against an FBS opponent since a 24-0 win against Middle Tennessee State in 2011. The Vols allowed just 199 yards on Saturday to a team ranked 109th nationally in total offense. That's the fewest Tennessee has given up in any game since 2010, when UT Martin had 142 yards, and against an FBS opponent since 2009, when UCLA had 186 (and won 19-15).
When the Vols showed up at Neyland Stadium shortly before 10 a.m. on Saturday morning. As poorly as the Vols played on offense, they were never really under threat of losing this game, especially after easing down the field for a touchdown one minute and nine seconds into the game. North Texas was a 41-point underdog for a reason. That doesn't excuse how poorly Tennessee played, though.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs struggled on Saturday, but his best play came on a drive that ended in a field goal in the second quarter. He caught a low snap from center Coleman Thomas before eluding some pressure off the edge as North Texas blitzed. Josh Malone did his part by coming back toward Dobbs as he scrambled and got his feet down in bounds along the sideline for a 22-yard gain.
WHAT IT MEANS
Tennessee officially can start pondering its possible bowl destinations. This actually is the earliest the Vols have clinched bowl eligibility since 2007. Tennessee hasn't been to back-to-back bowls since 2009 and 2010. The Vols can improve their postseason situation with wins against Missouri and Vanderbilt to close out the regular season. A loss to either would be disappointing.
BY THE NUMBERS
24: Tennessee's 24 points were the second-fewest allowed by North Texas this season. The Mean Green were allowing 45.6 points per game -- third-most in the FBS -- and surrendered at least 30 points in all but one of their first nine games. Tennessee's scoreless third quarter ended a streak of 30 quarters in which North Texas has given up at least one score.
2,103: With 237 yards on Saturday, Tennessee is up to 2,103 rushing yards through 10 games. The Vols cracked the 2,000-yard mark on the ground just twice in the previous 10 seasons and only three times (2,418 in 2004; 2,043 in 2009; and 2,261 in 2013) the past 15 seasons. Tennessee's final two opponents entered Saturday ranked 22nd (Missouri) and 14th (Vanderbilt) nationally in run defense.
$750,000: That's what Tennessee paid North Texas for Saturday's game. The Vols paid their four 2015 non-conference opponents a combined $2.75 million. Bowling Green ($1.2 million) drew the highest paycheck, Western Carolina took home $500,000 and Oklahoma received $300,000, which is what Tennessee received for last season's game in Norman.
1975: The only previous meeting between the two programs came 40 years ago, and the Mean Green, known then as North Texas State, won 21-14 in Knoxville. Sears Woods returned a kickoff 98 yards for the winning score after Tennessee tied the game with 4:25 left on a touchdown pass from Randy Wallace to John Murphy. The coach at NTSU that day? Hayden Fry, who would go on to win 143 games at Iowa from 1979 to 1998.
70-19-3: Tennessee's record in homecoming games. The Vols now have won 29 of their last 32 homecoming games dating back to 1984. The three losses were to No. 7 Auburn in 2013, Wyoming in 2008 (the first game after Phillip Fulmer's dismissal was announced) and Miami in 2002, when the Hurricanes were ranked No. 1 and on a 34-game winning streak.
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com.