Notebook: Tennessee football leans on run game to defeat Texas A&M

Tennessee football secured a hard-fought victory against Texas A&M with a final score of 20-13, showcasing a remarkable comeback under the leadership of head coach Josh Heupel. This win marks a significant milestone for Heupel, as it’s his first victory when trailing at halftime. The Vols, now standing at 5-1 with a 2-1 record in the SEC, face the challenging task of improving in their next game in Tuscaloosa. However, this victory against Texas A&M, currently at 4-3 with a 2-2 record, keeps many of their season goals well within reach.

Dee Williams Comes Up Big

One of the standout moments in this thrilling game was Dee Williams’ exceptional performance on special teams. The talented punt returner, primarily known for his agility, made a pivotal play by downing a punt at the 1-yard line. Williams, unfazed by the high-pressure situation, showed remarkable composure.

With their backs against the end zone and the roaring student section, the Aggies struggled to move the ball. As a result, they were forced to punt from the back of the end zone. This is where Williams showcased his dynamic abilities, returning the punt for an impressive 39 yards and propelling the Vols into the lead with just 6 minutes and 47 seconds left in the third quarter. Williams not only gave Tennessee the lead but also injected much-needed energy into the sideline during a rather sluggish night.

Coach Josh Heupel emphasized the significance of this momentum-shifting play, highlighting the positive impact it had on a game where the offense had experienced some stagnation.

Joe Milton III Struggles, Jaylen Wright Shines

While the Vols celebrated their win, it wasn’t a stellar night for quarterback Joe Milton III and the passing offense. Milton managed to complete only 11 of 22 passes, accumulating 100 yards and securing a single touchdown. Fortunately for Milton, the ground game compensated for the lackluster passing performance.

Running back Jaylen Wright attributed their success to confidence and preparation, acknowledging the crucial role played by the offensive line. Wright and the running back corps collectively gained 232 yards from 49 attempts, with Wright leading the way with an impressive 136 yards.

This remarkable achievement is noteworthy considering Texas A&M boasted one of the best defensive fronts in the SEC and the nation. The 232 rushing yards were the most an opponent had managed against Texas A&M during the season and represented a significant milestone since November 12, 2022. Coach Heupel commended the efforts of Glen Elarbee, Alec Abeln, Jerry Mack, the offensive line, tight ends, and running backs for their essential contributions to the game’s success.

Defense Comes Through

When the Vols’ offense struggled, the defense stepped up to the challenge. As Gabe Jeudy-Lally emphasized, there was no added pressure on the defense due to the unique circumstances of the game. This win was notable as it marked the first time Coach Heupel’s team had secured a victory with fewer than 30 points on the scoreboard.

Tennessee’s defense has consistently risen to the occasion throughout the season, and this game was no exception. Texas A&M’s quarterback, Max Johnson, remained under pressure for most of the night, with the defense sacking him twice and delivering numerous hits. Texas A&M’s ground game, a significant strength, was limited to just 54 yards, its lowest total since 2021.


Tennessee’s football team’s victory over Texas A&M is a testament to their resilience and adaptability. Coach Josh Heupel’s ability to lead the team to success even when trailing at halftime speaks volumes about the team’s determination. This win keeps the Vols on track to achieve their season goals, despite the challenges that lie ahead.


What was the most significant play in the game against Texas A&M?

Dee Williams’ punt return to the 1-yard line was a game-changer, shifting the momentum in favor of the Vols.

How did Jaylen Wright contribute to the win?

Jaylen Wright, the running back, played a crucial role by gaining 136 rushing yards and crediting his offensive line for their support.

What was the unique aspect of this game for Tennessee’s defense?

This game marked the first time Coach Heupel’s team secured a win with fewer than 30 points, highlighting the defense’s reliability.

Who were the defensive standouts for Tennessee?

Gabe Jeudy-Lally and the defensive unit as a whole stepped up, pressuring Texas A&M’s quarterback and limiting their ground game.

What does this victory mean for Tennessee’s season?

This victory keeps the Vols on track to achieve their season goals and demonstrates their resilience in challenging situations.

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