It’s finally over.
Tennessee ended several streaks at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Vols (3-3, 1-2) defeated No. 21 Auburn 30-24 to end an 11-game SEC losing streak and get their first win over the Tigers since 1999. Tennessee also ended its 15-game losing streak to SEC West teams, a streak that dated back to 2010.
“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 harder. They played with a little better technique and didn’t turn the ball over.”
The situation was very much in doubt in the first half, though.
Auburn (4-3, 1-3) drove 75 yards on the opening drive and scored when Chandler Cox ran into the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead. Tennessee responded with a 50-yard drive that ended with Brett Cimaglia’s 42-yard field goal. Auburn drove 73 yards on its next drive and extended its lead to 10-3 when Anders Carlson converted on a 20-yard field goal.
On Tennessee’s next drive, Marlon Davidson blocked Brett Cimaglia’s 48-yard field goal attempt. It seemed like momentum was shifting to Auburn, but then Tennessee stole it right back with a Bryce Thompson interception return to Tennessee’s 41-yard line. The offense did the rest. Tennessee drove 59 yards to tie the score at 10-10 when Jarrett Guarantano connected with Ty Chandler on a 42-yard touchdown strike.
Jonathan Kongbo intercepted Jarrett Stidham on Auburn’s next offensive possession, but Tennessee failed to capitalize on it. Despite losing the turnover battle 0-2, Auburn went into halftime with a 17-13 lead.
The Tigers may have opened the game with momentum, but, after Tennessee responded, the Vols outscored Auburn 17-7 to close out the win.
Tennessee took a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter when Jarrett Guarantano found Jauan Jennings in the end zone from 25 yards out. From there, the Vols piled on when Alontae Taylor scooped up a Jarrett Stidham fumble and carried it into the end zone for a touchdown. That made the lead 27-17, and Tennessee wrapped up its scoring when Brett Cimaglia connected on a 20-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Jarrett Guarantano went 21-of-32 for 328 yards and two touchdowns, a career day for the New Jersey native.
Tennessee’s running game struggled after its first possession. Ty Chandler rushed for 50 yards to lead the Vols on the ground. He also caught five passes for 62 yards and a score.
Up next, Tennessee will look to correct its rushing game woes when the Vols host No. 1 Alabama at Neyland Stadium next week. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m., and the game can be viewed on CBS.
Edited by Jake Nichols.
Featured image courtesy of Cory Sanning.