Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - David Cobb Vols beat writer


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.


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.

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