On a cloudy afternoon at Neyland Stadium, the Tennessee football team finally found their first victory, after three weeks of trying. Ty Chandler started off the game with a 58-yard kickoff return, which led to a 13-yard touchdown run to cap off the opening series.
Today was a changing of the guard along the offensive line, as two true freshmen got the start, Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright. Kenneth George Jr. got the start over Alontae Taylor today as well on defense, though Taylor quickly replaced him.
The Vols seemed to dominate the Mocs from the opening kickoff, as Ty Chandler broke off a 58-yard return & capped it with a 13 yard TD run. Tyler Byrd started it off on special teams with a blocked punt that was returned by Brandon Johnson for a touchdown. The Vols never looked back from there.
True freshman quarterback Brian Maurer entered the game with seven minutes to go in the first quarter, with Tennessee leading 21-0. The offense handed it off twice and then Maurer took off for a run just short of the first down marker. Darrell Taylor recovered a fumble at the Mocs 6. This set Tennessee up with another possession and Jarrett Guarantano returning to take snaps. On that drive, Guarantano to Marquez Callaway set the Vols up with a 28-0 lead in the early second quarter.
It was all Tennessee from this point on, as Guarantano connected with Cedric Tillman for a 28-yard touchdown to make it 35-0. A Brent Cimaglia field goal stretched it to 38-0 at halftime. Tennessee had finally put up some points and the crowd was elated, maybe a bit tipsy with joy.
Tennessee continued to dominate the rest of the second half, finishing the game with four interceptions on defense. The Vols got a touchdown run by Maurer in the third quarter. Tennessee finished the day with a total of 195 yards rushing, something they will have to try and rely on next week at Florida
Tennessee had the opportunity to play a lot of freshmen and backups, which is exactly what they needed to do. LB Jeremy Banks had two interceptions & the Tennessee defense forced 5 total turnovers on the day. The addition of LB Daniel Bituli to the lineup today was a much-needed solution when it came to defensive play calling. Coach Pruitt said of Bituli ” It’s good that we got Daniel Bituli to play; he needed to play. He’s probably not 100 percent yet, but he needed to play. And he’ll get better. He’s really improved a lot in the last three or four days. So, that was good for him to get out there and get going”
Jarrett Guarantano did not play in the second half, coming off a first-half performance in which he went 7/8 with 142 yards & 3 touchdowns. A nice performance for a QB who’s not had the best previous two weeks in many eyes.
Jeremy Pruitt took up for his QB in the postgame press conference when he was asked how JG handled this past week “Well, I think you guys probably give yourselves more credit than you deserve. The rest of us, we’re not really worried about what you say when it comes to our quarterback and all of that. So, we just went business as usual. Jarrett is our quarterback, and he’ll be our quarterback until we decide that he’s not. He deserves to be our quarterback; he’s outplayed everybody”
The Vols definitely had some work to put in today and a bunch of things to fix, but mainly the Vols just needed a win before they head to the Swamp next week. They got it in a big way today on both sides of the ball. Jeremy Pruitt added, when asked abot how much he knows about his team heading into SEC play ” We’re still kind of creating the identity of who we are on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, we’re kind of the same way. I’d say in the first three weeks Henry To’o To’o has played as well as anybody. But we’re looking for consistency from a bunch of different players, and we’ve got a bunch of them that there’s not much difference in”
The Vols are now 1-2 on the season and Gainesville is next. Hey Tennessee fans, buckle up.