Tennessee outscored No. 21/21 Auburn 17-7 in the final two quarters of Saturday’s game to earn its first road and SEC win of the season at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We beat a really good football team today,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “It’s like I told them in there, if we learn to execute and raise our level of fight, we’ve got a chance to have a really good football team. There were times in the game where things didn’t go our way. I didn’t think we played very well at certain times in the game, but our guys kind of kept their poise. Fought a little bit harder. They played with a little better technique. We got some turnovers and didn’t turn the ball over.”
The conference victory is the first of the Jeremy Pruitt era and marks UT’s first road win over a ranked Auburn team since the 1980 season when the Vols defeated the No. 18 Tigers 42-0 in Auburn.
With the win, Tennessee improves to 3-3 (1-2 SEC) and Auburn moves to 4-3 (1-3 SEC) on the season.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano paced the Vols offensively, completing a career-high 21 of 32 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Ty Chandler rushed for 50 yards on 16 carries while redshirt junior wide receiver Jauan Jennings caught five passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 28 of 45 passes for 322 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Andrew Schwartz led the Tigers in rushing with 44 yards on three carries and added 83 yards on two receptions.
The Tigers got the scoring started with a 14-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown rush by running back Chandler Cox with 9:44 remaining in the opening frame.
Tennessee then added three points to the board in its ensuing possession with a 42-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Brent Cimaglia. Chandler had an 18-yard rush to start the drive while freshman running back Tim Jordan made two plays for a combined 37 yards to set up the kick.
The Vols’ defense proceeded to hold Auburn to a field goal in the redzone after the Tigers marched 73 yards down the field to UT’s two-yard line during their final drive of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, freshman defensive back Bryce Thompson ignited Tennessee’s third scoring opportunity, intercepting Stidham’s pass on a second-and-four try with 13:05 to go to set the Vols up at their own 41. Guarantano then marched the Big Orange 59 yards in five plays, capping the drive with a 42-yard pass to Chandler for a touchdown. Cimaglia’s successful PAT tied the game up at 10-10.
Stidham was intercepted again in the second quarter with 6:34 left to play by redshirt senior linebacker Jonathan Kongbo. He returned it 10 yards to the AU37. The resulting Tennessee drive ended in a Joe Doyle punt. Auburn capitalized on the opportunity with a 76-yard touchdown pass to make it a 17-10 ballgame.
In Tennessee’s final drive of the half, Cimaglia made his second field goal of the game, a season-long 45-yard kick which capped a seven-play, 24-yard drive.
The two teams exchanged punts to start the third before Tennessee ate up 6:24 on a 12-play, 86-yard drive. The Vols used three plays over 10 yards to get down the field before Guarantano connected with Jennings in the back of the endzone for a 25-yard score. Cimaglia’s PAT was good and gave the Vols a 20-17 lead.
Tennessee then attempted an on-side kick that Auburn recovered at it’s own 25-yard line. On the second play of the drive, defensive linemen Kyle Phillips and Alexis Johnson Jr. forced a Stidham fumble that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by Alontae Taylor. It marks the first fumble returned for a touchdown by a Vol since VFL Corey Vereen did so at Georgia on Oct. 1, 2016.
Cimaglia added another field goal for Tennessee in the fourth quarter to extend the Vols’ lead 30-17. The score finished off a five-play, 47-yard drive.
Auburn recorded the last touchdown of the game with 37 seconds left in the fourth to make it a 30-24 final.
Tennessee takes on the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide next Saturday, Oct. 20, at 3:30 p.m. ET in Neyland Stadium. Tickets are available at AllVols.com.
Story and photo courtesy of Tennessee Athletics