Vols
Three Things We Learned In Tennessee’s 29-26 Loss To Kentucky

Stephen Johnson’s 11-yard rushing touchdown with 33 seconds left clinched Kentucky’s second win over Tennessee since 1984, dropping the Vols to 0-5 in SEC play and 3-5 overall. Here’s what we learned from the orange and white’s fourth consecutive loss.

Tennessee’s offensive line is playing like a liability

The Vols’ offensive line was supposed to be the most experienced and talented group in the unit — maybe even on the team — by internal preseason accounts around the program.

What has transpired since then, though, has been nothing short of a pit-falling disaster. Drew Richmond’s struggling season got worse on Saturday night, as the redshirt sophomore left Guarantano’s blindside full of Kentucky defenders for most of the night. He wasn’t alone in his struggles, though.

The unit combined to allow seven sacks on Guarantano on the night. After top-ranked Alabama battered the redshirt freshman, the group was expected to bounce back against a Kentucky front that was No. 12 in the SEC in sacks and a lowly No. 84 in the FBS with just 12 sacks on the season.

Instead, Guarantano ran for his life and took hit after hit as Kentucky bottled up the Vols’ second-half offense. The group is facing some injuries, but again, it was expected to be the deepest group on the offense. Something’s not right.

Ty Chandler is a budding star

Chandler had shown some of his potential talent before tonight, but he announced his presence for years to come with an impressive fill-in performance for suspended John Kelly.

The freshman showed Vol fans a sample of his speed when he took the opening kickoff against Indiana State 91 yards for a touchdown, but the young back hasn’t been able to show much more of his potential. Until tonight, that is.

Chandler had a potential 80-yard touchdown run called back when Josh Smith was called for holding, but Chandler’s breakaway speed is more than evident in this clip.

Then, Chandler showed a bit of Kelly with his toughness, bouncing off of and running through defenders in space as he helped create room for the Vols’ running game. Butch Jones and Larry Scott even went to the freshman out of an under-center, goal-line formation twice, both resulting in short touchdowns.

 

 

Tennessee elected to run wide for a majority of the first half, and the youngster thrived. Chandler showed his improving vision to find running lanes and the quickness to hit them while they were open, and he provided most of the positive work from the offense throughout the night.

Tennessee was beaten by in-game adjustments again

The Vols’ loss in Lexington seemed all too familiar to those who also watched South Carolina’s 15-9 victory in Neyland Stadium two weeks ago.

In that one, Tennessee started strong, moving the ball down the field relatively quickly. The Vols couldn’t reach the end zone, though, and when Will Muschamp’s squad took away early options that moved the orange and white down the field, the offense never got going again.

Similar circumstances arose in Lexington in the second half. Tennessee had consistent success running wide in the first half, getting both the aforementioned Chandler free and giving Carlin Fils-aime running room. In the second half, the Wildcats adjusted to the Vols’ run gaps, shutting down those options.

Tennessee’s defense adjusted against Kentucky, too, and held the Wildcats to just 87 total second-half yards — that is, until the go-ahead scoring drive, a 72-yard march that came mostly on the ground.

It took just one drive to give the Wildcats the win because Tennessee’s offense couldn’t move far enough to even get into comfortable field goal range. The Vols’ passing game was improved, but still lacked a downfield threat, and Kentucky punished Tennessee accordingly by defensively bending and not breaking en route to a win.