The second quarter wasn’t kind to the Tennessee football team.
The Vols saw Kentucky jump out to a 14-0 lead off of two consecutive pick-sixes and never recorded as the Wildcats took a 34-7 victory inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was the first win inside Neyland Stadium for Kentucky since 1984 – a streak of 17 games.
“When you look at this, it’s like I just told the team, there’s lots of areas that we need to improve on, obviously,” Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “But, it’s more about creating the right habits. It’s how you practice every single day, the work ethic, and creating the right habits. It’s on everybody within our organization to really improve that. We’ve got to work hard to do that.”
The first quarter saw the Tennessee offense move the ball well.
However, the first drive ended with a punt after a sack on a third and long and the second Tennessee drive ended with a fumble.
Neither team was able to break onto the board in the opening 15 minutes.
Momentum shifted to the Wildcats in the opening minutes of the second quarter as the Wildcats used a pair of pick six’s- a 41-yard interception return from Kelvin Joseph and an 85-yard interception return from Jamin Davis – to quickly jump to a 14-0 lead over three minutes to open the quarter.
Kentucky was also able to add a field goal after J.T. Shrout, who replaced Jarrett Guarantano for a series, threw an interception – the fourth straight turnover for Tennessee.
“If you look at it at that point right there, I don’t know how many snaps we had played, but we were moving the ball well,” Pruitt said. “We went fast and didn’t get a guy blocked on the zone, so we had second-and-10. Then we threw a check down and dropped it. Then we give up a sack, which we don’t need to give up a sack. We need to throw the ball away. That knocked us out of field goal range. We come right back and have some positive plays and we knock the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.”
“At that point in time, they really hadn’t stopped us. We kind of stopped ourselves.”
Tennessee settled down on the next series by going to the ground.
Eric Gray spearheaded a drive that had 11 straight rushing plays and was capped when Ty Chandler scored on a four-yard run with 1:36 left in the quarter.
That cut the Kentucky lead to 17-7 at the break.
Tennessee received the ball to open the second half, but was forced to a quick three-and-out. The Wildcats took full advantage to regain the momentum as UK embarked on an 11-play drive that covered 76 yards with over five minutes of clock time coming off.
Kentucky pushed the lead to 17 points when Allen Dailey caught a Terry Wilson pass from a yard out.
From there, it was all Kentucky as Tennessee was unable to battle back.
Gray had a strong showing despite the score as he had 128 yards on 24 carries. Chandler finished with 12 carries for 51 yards.
“I thought our offensive line blocked pretty good to be honest,” Pruitt said. “I was a little disappointed in our running backs and yards after contact. It looked like we blocked them for six and we got six. Sometimes got 5.5. We’ll watch the film and see. Eric is a guy that works hard at practice, has good character – him and Ty both. We’ll continue to try and improve in that part of our offense.”
Guarantano finished 14-of-21 for 88 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble. In addition to Shrout’s quick appearance, Tennessee was able to get freshman Harrison Bailey some snaps in the fourth quarter.
“I would say it’s undecided,” Pruitt said. “Right now, when you lose 34-7, I think everybody in our organization has got to look and see what went wrong. We could make changes at any level.”
Kentucky saw Chris Rodriguez finish with 73 yards on 13 carries, while Wilson was 12-of-15 passing for 101 yards.
Tennessee now turns its attention to No. 2 Alabama as the Crimson Tide come to Neyland next Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 3:30p.
Photos courtesy of Tennessee Athletic Communications