Back John Kelly Leading ‘Vols Forward

Back To SEC

John Kelly Leading ‘Vols Forward

By BJ Bennett
Follow us at  Become a fan at the Facebook Page

When the outlook was tough, Tennessee running back John Kelly was tougher.

There were fair questions leading into Tennessee's season-opener as to who would step up and lead the way on a largely-inexperienced team. After 128 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards and, most impressively, four touchdowns, the answer is clearly junior running back John Kelly. The Detroit-native was the driving force behind the Volunteers' comeback victory, scoring what ultimately proved-to-be the game-winning touchdown in a dramatic double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech.  

On a night where Tennessee did not have many offensive opportunities in regulation, Kelly made the most of his. He was at his absolute best in crunch time, scoring three times in the fourth quarter and extra play alone. With Tennessee looking for a game-tying score late, it was Kelly who finished off the drive with physical runs of 16 yards and eleven yards, reaching the endzone for the signature play of his career.

"What can I say about him? He played with passion, played with energy and played with toughness and a great will to win," nodded UT head coach Butch Jones post-game.   

Though the Volunteers were outrushed a staggering 535 yards to 148, Kelly actually had a higher yard-per-carry average, 6.7, than Georgia Tech at 6.2. 

Quarterback Quinten Dormady certainly showed both promise and poise. He finished 20-of-37 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in his debut. It was Kelly, however, who emerged as the offensive focal point. With him leading the way, and a strong offensive line in place, a consistent north-south ground game will only help Dormady settle in under center.

Obviously, Tennessee has areas that need significant improvement. Furthermore, the Volunteers play rivals Florida and Georgia in two of their next four games. That said, this win, and Kelly's corresponding performance, comes with significant momentum for the run ahead. It was an improbable victory for Tennessee, but, also, an important one.

When the outlook was tough, Kelly was tougher. Somehow, the Volunteers found a way; in the process, they found their man.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports