KNOXVILLE (UTSports.com) - Roy Olasimbo rushed for 119 yards and three touchdowns and Nick Stephens completed 10-of-19 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns to lead Tennessee’s junior varsity past Hargrave Military Academy 37-20 Thursday night at Neyland Stadium.
It was the first JV game for the Volunteers since 1992.
“Our guys did a tremendous job and we’re really proud of them,” associate head coach John Chavis said. “We got guys some experience who are going to help our football team down the road.”
“We also got some guys in the game who, maybe without this night, will never play on this field in a real game. It was neat seeing the expressions on their faces.”
Tennessee put the game away on a two-play, 36-yard drive late in the third quarter. Knoxville’s Dennis Rogan returned the kickoff 48 yards to give the Vols prime starting field position. Stephens then hit Brentwood’s Julian Wiggins for 33 yards to the Hargrave 3-yard line.
Olasimbo, a senior from Riverdale, Ga., punched it in on the next play to give Tennessee a 30-14 lead.
Tennessee added its final score midway through the fourth quarter when Stephens hit Chattanooga’s Kevin Cooper for a 9-yard TD.
“I think Nick got better as the game went along,” assistant head coach David Cutcliffe said. “He created some plays, which I thought was outstanding, and he saw downfield. That’s what I liked. He had good vision downfield and threw the ball pretty well for the most part.”
Hargrave scored two touchdowns in the second half to keep it interesting, but Tennessee already had the game in hand thanks to a stingy defense that forced three turnovers and allowed the Tigers only 70 yards on the ground.
The Vols surrendered only 65 yards of offense in the first half and forced a punt or turnover on every Tigers possession. Derrick Furlow, a Crossett, Ark., sophomore, picked off a pass attempt late in the second quarter to set up Olasimbo’s 4-yard touchdown run, giving the Vols a 20-7 lead at intermission.
Tennessee scored on consecutive possessions to start the second period and rally from an early deficit.
Stephens, a redshirt freshman from Flower Mound, Texas, hit Cooper for 40 yards early in the period to set up Olasimbo’s first score, a 9-yard touchdown run that tied the game 7-7. After a Hargrave punt, Stephens struck again, hitting Memphis native Bram Cannon for a 49-yard touchdown and a 13-7 Tennessee advantage. Devin Mathis missed the PAT try, though the Chattanoogan later would convert a 39-yard field goal attempt and performed well on kickoffs.
A lack of game experience was evident in the Vols offense early. Tennessee turned the ball over on each of its first three possessions, but Hargrave only was able to convert the miscues into seven points. The Tigers defense forced a fumble on Tennessee’s first play from scrimmage and recovered it in the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.
“They just timed the snap count,” Cutcliffe said. “Their guy just came through the center-guard gap untouched. When that happens, bad things are going to happen.”
Sinclair Cannon, a Greer, S.C., junior, led the Vols defense with seven tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss. Rogan was the special teams star, combining for 191 all-purpose yards on two punt returns (72 yards), three kickoffs (104 yards) and one interception (15 yards).
“This was fun tonight,” Cutcliffe said. “To see these guys who work so hard in practice and just don’t get to play very often – outstanding. That was a big part of what went on out here tonight.”
With the win, Tennessee improves to 60-54-3 all-time in junior varsity or freshman games dating to 1957.