KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – With redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano leading the charge, the Orange rolled to a 34-7 victory Saturday afternoon in the 2018 DISH Orange and White Game.
On an absolutely beautiful spring afternoon, 65,098 Tennessee fans made their way to Neyland Stadium to get a first-hand look at the Big Orange in action under first-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff.
Guarantano quickly emerged as the game’s standout performer, going on to earn most valuable player honors. He finished the day 15 of 27 passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with six different receivers, including redshirt sophomore Eli Wolf, who caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore receiver Josh Palmer hauled in three balls for a game-high 77 yards.
Wolf was the recipient of the Harvey Robinson Award as the most improved player during spring practice. Senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips, who recorded a sack and four tackles for the White, was the winner of the Andy Spiva Award as the most improved defensive player of the spring.
Theo Jackson made the first big play of the game, helping the Orange get on the scoreboard midway through the opening stanza. The sophomore defensive back intercepted a Will McBride pass and returned it 49 yards to the White 15. With a facemask penalty tacked on, Guarantano and company set up shop at the seven. Three plays later, Guarantano found junior wide receiver Marquez Callaway in the corner of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown reception. Sophomore Brent Cimaglia kicked the PAT to make it 7-0 with 7:59 to go in the period.
Guarantano moved the Orange 30 yards in seven plays to set up another score with 14:53 left in the second period. Cimaglia came on to attempt a 43-yard field goal, and he knocked it home to extend the Orange lead to 10-0.
The Orange pushed the lead to 17-0 with 6:46 left in the second quarter after sophomore running back Tim Jordan bulled into the end zone from five yards out and Cimaglia added the PAT. The five-play, 62-yard drive was aided by a 23-yard pass from Guarantano to sophomore wideout Josh Palmer and a 29-yard run from Jordan on the two plays prior to the touchdown.
Guarantano managed to steer the Orange to three more points before the end of the half via a 41-yard Cimaglia field goal. After being sacked for a loss of eight yards by redshirt senior defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo and facing a second-and-23 from the White 42, Guarantano connected on passes of five yards (to sophomore running back Ty Chandler) and 14 yards (to Callaway). Those completions moved the Orange to the White 23, where Cimaglia came on and extended the score to 20-0
Orange stars during the first half were Guarantano (6-12-87, 1 TD), Jordan (5-50 rushing, 1 TD), Callaway (3-30 receiving, 1 TD) and Cimaglia (FGs 43 &41, 2 PATs). For the White, Nigel Warrior returned four kicks for 105 yards (26.0 avg.) and Quarte Sapp recorded five tackles.
With 3:24 left in the third stanza, the Orange struck again. Chandler plunged into the end zone from one yard out, and Cimaglia added the PAT to make it 27-0. Guarantano was four-for-five on the drive, opening with a 20-yarder to Palmer and adding first-down tosses of nine and 17 yards, respectively, to tight ends Wolf and redshirt sophomore Austin Pope to keep the chains moving.
The White finally hit pay-dirt with 3:13 remaining in the game. McBride, a sophomore, connected with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Latrell Williams on a 35-yard scoring strike. Redshirt junior placekicker Laszlo Toser added the PAT to trim the Orange lead to 27-7.
Guarantano and company responded quickly, taking four plays and 1:06 off the clock to move 63 yards and answer for the Orange. The capper was a 29-yard pass to Wolf with 10 seconds left in the game. Cimaglia added the PAT, his fourth of the contest, to make the score 34-7.
The Orange produced 360 yards of total offense, including 226 through the air and 134 on the ground. Jordan finished with 57 yards on nine carries 6.3 (ypc.), while Chandler added 53 yards on 11 attempts (4.8 ypc.).
Defensively, Sapp led all tacklers with 11 stops, including five solos for the White. Junior defensive back Nigel Warrior chipped in eight tackles for the White, including seven solos. Sophomore defensive lineman Kivon Bennett was the leading tackler for the Orange, tallying four stops, including a sack.
UP NEXT: The Vols will open the 2018 season on Sept. 1 in Charlotte, N.C., as they face off against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
HOME OPENER: Tennessee will play its first home game on Sept. 8, as the Vols welcome the East Tennessee State Buccaneers to Neyland Stadium.