Tennessee (4-5, 0-5 SEC) needed all the defensive help they could get to stretch open their lead against the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss. With two third quarter forced turnovers, the Volunteers were able to edge past Southern Miss by a score of 24-10. Junior running back John Kelly led the team with two touchdowns on the ground.
The 94,000 fans who embraced Neyland Stadium for the Volunteers annual homecoming game where treated to an exceptional game to say the least.
Tennessee got off to a quick start after Evan Berry’s 46-yard return from the opening kick-off. With Jarrett Guarantano under-center, the Vols marched right down the field with several huge plays from wide receiver Marquez Calloway and Kelly. Nine plays later, Guarantano found the checkerboard with a 3-yard scramble.
The score would remain 7-0 until the middle of the second quarter when the Golden Eagles would get on the scoreboard with a Parker Shaunfield 27-yard field goal, finishing off a 10 play, 77-yard drive.
Tennessee would extend its lead to 10-3 going into halftime with a 38-yard Aaron Medley field goal. The 12 play, 68-yard scoring drive featured two quarterbacks after Guarantano went down with an apparent lower body injury, forcing true freshman Will McBride to lose his redshirt status and go under center for the Volunteers.
Although McBride only took three snaps on the drive, the young quarterback would get his chance to lead Tennessee out of the tunnel in the second half. With Guarantano sidelined for the second half and a true freshman under center, the Volunteers defense needed to deliver some good field position—and they did.
The first turnover of the night would come from senior cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who intercepted Southern Miss quarterback Keon Howard’s errant pass. Moseley would take the ball 19-yards the other way, setting up a 20-yard sprint on the first play from scrimmage from Kelly.
Tennessee’s defense would strike again on the very next Southern Miss drive. Darrell Taylor came up with a huge strip-sack, forcing Howard to put the ball on the ground. Raashaan Gaulden of the Vols would eventually recover the fumble on the Southern Miss 24-yard line, giving Tennessee quarterback Will McBride solid field positioning to stretch out the lead.
After an unsportsmanlike penalty on a 30-yard Medley field-goal attempt, Kelly would punch it into the end-zone from the three yards out. This extended the Vols to a commanding 24-3 lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles would finally add seven points to the scoreboard after true-freshman quarterback Kwadra Griggs found the end-zone with a one-yard scramble. The 10 play, 90-yard drive gave the Golden Eagles life with 6:42 remaining in the fourth.
The Volunteer defense would lock it down for the remainder of the game. After the offense stalled out with five three-and-outs in the fourth quarter, the Volunteers defense was able to hold off the Southern Miss to seal Tennessee’s homecoming victory.
The Volunteers will hit the road next week, traveling to Columbia to take on the Tigers of Missouri at Memorial Stadium. The game is set to kick at 7:30 ET and can be viewed on the SEC Network.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Featured image courtesy of UT Sports