LEXINGTON, Ky. – It’s not how you start it’s how you finish.
After a terrible start that saw multiple miscues in the first quarter, the Tennessee Volunteers regrouped, changed quarterbacks, stiffened the defense and rallied for a 17-13 road win at Kentucky Saturday night. Tennessee has now won three games in-a-row and four of their last five.
The Vols remain in contention for a bowl bid as they even their record at 5-5 and 3-3 in the SEC. The Volunteers need to win one of their remaining two games against either Missouri or Vanderbilt to see a post-season game for the first time in three years.
The game was won late in the contest on a goal line stand. Kentucky took over near midfield after a UT fumble and got all the way to the Vols’ 1-yard line after a substitution infraction. On a third and goal, Henry To’o To’o stuffed Chris Rodriguez Jr. for a two-yard loss. On fourth down, Kentucky went with a quarterback option as Lynn Bowden tried to lunge forward, but JaQuain Blakely and Daniel Bituli were having none of that as they stuffed the qb for no gain to turn the ball over on downs.
Tennessee took over in the shadow of their own end zone with 1:17 remaining and with the Wildcats possessing all three of their time outs. Tim Jordan picked up five yards on a run and then added one more yard one play later. Facing third and four at his own eight, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano called his own number and picked up 10 yards on a rush. Kentucky was out of time outs, couldn’t stop the clock and watched as Tennessee went into the victory formation.
Guarantano started the second half after Brian Mauer struggled through the first two quarters. He was magical, going 7-for-8 for 115 yards, two touchdowns and 30 yards on the ground to lead the Tennessee offense. Maurer was 7-for-16 for 98 yards in the first half. UT’s favorite receiver was Marquez Callaway who caught four passes for 103 yards. The Vols were outgained 327-296 in total offense as they only generated 83 rushing yards. But the defense stepped up when it needed to in order to preserve the victory, thanks in large part to Bituli’s 19 tackles which included 10 solo tackles.
Bowden lead the UK offense with 114 yards on 26 carries. He didn’t go to the air very often as he was only 4-of-7 for 25 yards in the game. The Wildcats slip to 4-5 and 2-5 in the SEC. They will travel to Nashville next week to take on Vanderbilt.
Guarantano picked up five yards on the first play for Tennessee in the third quarter and on the second play, fired a dart to Callaway for a 33-yard pickup to the UK 27.