VOLS GAME IN BITS & PIECES
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano stood in the pocket and delivered strike after strike while taking blow after blow to pace an offense that was almost unstoppable on third downs. He threw strikes on three third-down conversions during a third-quarter scoring drive that put the Volunteers ahead 20-17.
Tennessee converted five of six third downs in the third quarter as it took control of the game and overcame its inability to run the ball effectively. In the loss at Georgia two weeks earlier, third downs hampered the Vols on both sides of the ball. This time, they played their best football on third downs, especially on third-and-long.
Alexis Johnson Jr. and Kyle Phillips chased down Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham and forced a fumble as they sacked him for a loss of 15 yards at the Tigers’ 15yard line late in the third quarter. As the ball bounced toward the goal line, Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor scooped it up for a moment before it went to Alontae Taylor, who stepped into the end zone to put the Vols up 27-17.
Josh Palmer went up over a pair of Auburn defenders and snagged a 41-yard reception from Guarantano with roughly 10 minutes remaining in the game and the Vols leading 27-17. The acrobatic catch stood out above a series of beautiful connections between Guarantano and his receivers because it came in double coverage and sent many Auburn fans toward the exits.
WHAT IT Means
Tennessee’s bowl chances looked bleak after blowout losses to West Virginia and Florida. All of a sudden, the Vols look like a team capable of competing with every opponent remaining on their schedule, perhaps with the exception of Alabama this week. A bowl game is back in the picture. Showing progress on the field is also a nice boost for Jeremy Pruitt’s recruiting efforts.