It was a tale of two halves for Tennessee on Saturday.
The Volunteers saw Arkansas score 24 unanswered points in the third quarter to erase a double-digit Tennessee lead and take a 24-14 decision in Fayetteville, AR.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Volunteer program.
“First of all, you have to give credit to Arkansas,” Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
“They really outplayed us in the second half. In fact, they shut us out in the second half. Not a really good job there. We have to do a much better job coming out of halftime.”
Tennessee controlled the game in the first half on the legs of Eric Gray. The sophomore running back finished with 123 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown.
The Vols scored on three of their first four possessions of the game with a one-yard touchdown run from Gray as well as a pair of Brent Cimaglia field goals from 50 and 48 yards.
That allowed Tennessee to take a 13-0 lead into the locker room at the half.
The tide turned, however, in the third quarter.
Jarrett Guarantano left the game early in the third quarter with an injury and the Tennessee offensive attack was unable to get anything going.
“It seems to me, we have more penalties in the third quarter,” Pruitt said. “We’ve had more turnovers in the third quarter. That’s from an offensive standpoint. We got a penalty the first time we got the ball. I believe it was second and fifteen or second and twenty – one of those two. And then we punt the ball where it’s a fourth and four – forth and five.”
“We made up the yards to gain. Just can’t shoot ourselves in the foot there. We’ve done that several times. It was emotional penalties. That’s one of the big things. And tonight, you look at it defensively, just two explosive plays throwing the ball. They did put together a really good drive there to start the third quarter. Running some hat plays and getting the tight-end inside on our backers there. We will have to go back to it and fix it.”
The Razorbacks took control with a trio of touchdown passes from Feleipe Franks and a field goal to end the third quarter to take a 24-13 lead into the final 15 minutes.
Tennessee saw Brian Mauer and Harrison Bailey get snaps at quarterback, but neither were unable to lead the Vols into the endzone.
Guarantano finished 5-of-8 tasing for 42 yards passing in addition to 31 yards rushing, while Bailey was 6-of-9 for 65 yards on his drive. Mauer was 0-for-4 in his stint.
Jabari Small finished with eight carries for 19 yards.
Defensively, Theo Jackson had 10 tackles to lead the Vols, while Henry To’o To’o had seven tackles including a pair of tackles for loss.
“24-hour rule,” To’o To’o said post-game. “You live and you learn. That’s a part of life – you go through trials and tribulations, and you learn from it.”
Tennessee is set to return to action next Saturday as Texas A&M will visit Neyland Stadium.
“Of course you don’t want to lose, but I believe everybody’s in good spirits, everyone knows you have to get back to work and focus on the next game ahead,” Gray said. “This game is over with, and we have to put this one behind and focus on what’s ahead of us.”