It wasn’t perfect, but for the first time this season, Tennessee football looked alright. The Volunteers dominated every phase of the game in a 45-0 shutout win over UT-Chattanooga Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
To say that it was the best showing by the Volunteers (1-2) in the young season is an understatement. Tennessee rolled up 360 yards of total offense, had no trouble finding the end zone, forced four interceptions and even scored a touchdown on a blocked punt. This is what everyone thought UT football would look like at the season’s start.
“We got a good win and got five turnovers today, which was very important,” UT coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “We didn’t turn the ball over, which was probably the difference in the game. We created some opportunities in special teams. Those guys have done a really nice job of running the football against us and created some explosive plays there. But, with the turnovers, we were able to keep them out of the end zone.”
Even with that, there was a near disaster on the first play from scrimmage. After Ty Chandler returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to set the Vols up at the UT-C 41, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano nearly threw an interception on his first pass down the left sideline. Intended for Marquez Callaway, instead the ball fell right into the hands of Mocs cornerback Jordan Jones who promptly dropped it.
With a second chance, UT went to the ground on the rest of the drive, with Chandler taking the ball into the checkerboards on a 13-yard touchdown run.
After the Mocs (1-2) went three-and-out on their ensuing possession, Tennessee’s Tyler Byrd shot through the line and blocked the punt. Brandon Johnson scooped the ball up from the turf and took it the final 24 yards for a score. The game wasn’t even three minutes old and UT led 14-0.
The Vols went up 21-0 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Guarantano to Juan Jennings midway through the first quarter.
“There are obviously things that we need to clean up and fix, but going into this game, we wanted to harp on details and we wanted to harp on toughness,” Guarantano said. “I think we got some of that done, but we’re going back to the drawing board. We’ve got to go check out the tape. Going into next week, we’re going to have a tough task and we’re going to have to learn from what we just did out there.”
Guarantano took a seat on Tennessee’s next possession as freshman Brian Maurer was handed the keys to the offense for the first time. Two penalties kept the Vols from doing anything and Guarantano was back in on the following UT possession.
He made it count, tossing a 39-yard touchdown pass to Callaway that put the Volunteers up 28-0.
Guarantano added another 28-yard TD pass to his stat sheet before the half ended, this time hitting Cedric Tillman to build a 35-0 lead.
Brent Cimaglia split the uprights on a 34-yard field goal before halftime.
Guaranano’s day was done at the break. He finished 7-of-8 passing for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Maurer and redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout closed out the game at QB. Maurer was 0-for-2 passing, but did run in a six-yard touchdown, the only score of the second half. Shrout went 3-for-9 passing for 23 yards.
UT-C burned through two quarterbacks in the game, with both having similar luck throwing the ball. Nick Tiano went 4-for-16 for 40 yards and two interceptions. Drayton Arnold was 5-for-10 for 36 yards and two picks.
Chandler led Tennessee’s rushing attack with 10 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. The Mocs got 85 yards on 15 carries from Albany transfer Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks.
Jeremy Banks recorded three tackles and two interceptions for Tennessee. Romelo Edwards and Kenny Solomon had the other picks. Linebacker Shanon Reid led the Vols with seven tackles. UT-C got eight tackles from Jay Person.
“I’m glad that Jeremy (Banks) got to play, and he’s a guy that is still learning what it takes to be a good football player at the collegiate level,” Pruitt said. “He’s learning about the time you have to put in on your own to get prepared, and all of that comes with maturity and being around guys that know how to do things the right way. He’s a guy that continues to improve, and I’m glad he was in the right spot one time.”
Tennessee opens its Southeastern Conference schedule next Saturday in Gainesville, Fla. with a noon matchup with the Florida Gators.
Tennessee 45, Chattanooga 0
Chattanooga 0 0 0 0 — 0
Tennessee 21 17 7 0 — 45
TEN — Chandler 13 run (Cimaglia kick), 12:16
TEN — B.Johnson 24 blocked punt return (Cimaglia kick), 10:52
TEN — Jennings 12 pass from Guarantano (Cimaglia kick), 8:36
TEN — Callaway 39 pass from Guarantano (Cimaglia kick), 12:01
TEN — Tillman 28 pass from Guarantano (Cimaglia kick), 5:22
TEN — FG Cimaglia 34, :41
TEN — Maurer 6 run (Cimaglia kick), 12:20
First downs 15 22
Rushes-yards 44-151 38-195
Passing 76 165
Comp-Att-Int 9-26-4 10-19-0
Return Yards 2 98
Punts-Avg. 2-46.5 2-56.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-49 5-65
Time of Possession 33:13 26:47
RUSHING — Chattanooga, Ibitokun-Hanks 15-85, Ford 15-41, Tiano 2-15, Wood 8-14, Arnold 2-9, (Team) 2-(minus 13). Tennessee, Chandler 10-46, Jordan 5-33, F.Orr 7-32, Gray 8-32, Omer 2-24, Maurer 4-16, Christian 2-12.
PASSING — Chattanooga, Tiano 4-16-2-40, Arnold 5-10-2-36. Tennessee, Guarantano 7-8-0-142, Maurer 0-2-0-0, Shrout 3-9-0-23.
RECEIVING — Chattanooga, James 2-18, Tucker 1-15, D.Williams 1-11, Manning 1-9, Tyus 1-8, Nunnelly 1-7, McKinnon 1-7, Upshaw 1-1. Tennessee, Callaway 2-59, Tillman 2-38, Fant 1-19, Palmer 1-18, Jennings 1-12, B.Johnson 1-9, Wood-Anderson 1-6, Gray 1-4.