Overall we played a little sloppy as opposed to what we are capable of. But even without playing to our true caliber, Kentucky still couldn’t best the Vols.
The Vols offense didn’t see much action in the first quarter as Kentucky’s first drive lasted a little over 10 minutes. Tennessee struggled to cover the option and Kentucky took advantage of that. After what seemed to be a lifetime, the Cats struck first with a 2-yard run from Asim Rose to take the 7-0 lead. The Vols didn’t do much to respond. After a short 3-and-out and bobble on the punt, Kentucky’s Joshua Pachal blocked Paxton Brooks punt to give the Cats impeccable field position. It only took 24 yards in 46 seconds to get in the end zone again. But after the Vols blocked the PAT the Cats only went up 13-0.
Then it was time for Tennessee to get the ball rolling. Brian Maurer found Jauan Jennings and Josh Palmer and got himself a few rushing yards to help lead the Vols down the field. While they ultimately weren’t able to find the end zone, Brent Cimaglia was able to put 3 on the board from 26-yards out to cut the deficit to 13-3. The defense had gotten increasingly better throughout the night and I believe the next drive was a turning point. After what seemed to be another long Kentucky drive taking place, Nigel Warrior put an end to it. Warrior intercepted Bowden Jr. to give the Vols the ball back at the Tennessee 46. While the Vols didn’t score, neither did Kentucky, on that drive or their next just before the half.
Tennessee took advantage of getting the ball first after the half, and didn’t waste time doing it. Pruitt also made a change of command, starting Jarrett Guarantano instead of Brian Maurer. Guarantano looked good, finding Marquez Callaway in the end zone for a 17-yard TD pass to close the gap even more to 13-10. The defense came out and they came out strong, holding the cats first drive to -2 yards. The offense put together another scoring-drive dominated by the air. Guarantano found 4 different receivers on the drive for a combined total of 65 yards. The final completion, an outstanding toe-touch grab on the side of the end zone by Josh Palmer from 12 yards out. This TD put the Vols in the lead for the first time of the night at 17-13.
The defense held tough the rest of the game shutting down the Cats’ run game. With about 8 minutes left in the game, Tennessee got the ball back to seemingly allow them to run the clock out. On the 2nd play of the drive, there was a mishap on the hand-off from Guarantano to Ty Chandler giving Kentucky the ball back down by 4. The Cats put together a drive, kept alive by some costly and questionable penalties. They drove the ball all the way down to the 1 yard line, almost sure to score. Kentucky ran 4 plays inside the 10, 2 of them inside the 2. They weren’t able to score on any of them. On 4th & goal from the 2, the Cats went back to the option that had worked so well through the night. This time, the Vols defense was ready. Nigel Warrior made Bowden Jr. hold on to the ball and cut it inside where he found 2 more Vols waiting on him.
I do think that overall we played a little sloppy. Between our rough play, us giving them the ball and good field position, the officials throwing them a couple calls here and there, and the stats that they were putting up, Kentucky should have won the game. But even with all of that, the Cats can’t beat Tennessee. If they weren’t able to beat us last year with one of their best teams in program history, or beat us this year with the cards in their favor, I think it’s safe to say that we are going to continue to control this rivalry. Go Vols!
J. Guarantano: 7/8, 115 yards, 2 TD, 6 rush, 30 yards, 94.3 QBR
T. Chandler: 7 rush, 28 yards
M. Callaway: 4 rec., 103 yards, 1 TD
L. Bowden Jr.: 4/7, 25 yards, 1 INT, 26 rush, 114 yards, 12.3 QBR
C. Rodriguez Jr.: 12 rush, 81 yards
J. Ali: 1 rec., 12 yards
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