With just over a minute remaining, Ja’Quain Blakely and Daniel Bituli stopped Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. for no gain on fourth-and-goal, and Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC) held on to beat Kentucky (4-5, 2-4 SEC) 17-13 in Lexington.
“Our kids did what they should do,” Tennessee Coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “They rose up and found a way to make plays there and finish the game.”
Kentucky struck first when A.J. Rose scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead. The Wildcats added another first-quarter score after Josh Paschal blocked a punt to set Kentucky up deep in Tennessee’s territory. Two plays later, Kavosiey Smoke carried the ball 22 yards for a touchdown to give Kentucky a 13-0 lead.
Tennessee scored its first points in the second quarter when Brent Cimaglia connected on a 26-yard field goal to cut Kentucky’s lead to 13-3.
In the second half, Jarrett Guarantano came off the bench to lead the Tennessee offense. The redshirt junior quarterback lit a spark and led the Vols on two third-quarter touchdown drives.
On the opening drive of the half, Guarantano connected with Marquez Callaway for a 17-yard touchdown strike to cut Kentucky’s lead to 13-10. Guarantano’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Josh Palmer gave Tennessee the lead for good. Guarantano was 7-of-8 passing for 115 yards.
“He’s smart,” Pruitt said of Guarantano. “He done a great job tonight. He’s done a great job coming off the bench all year, that we’ve asked him to do it. I just think he’s a guy that, he wanted to play well tonight and he did.”
On a night when the offense struggled, Tennessee had to rely on its defense to hold onto its come-from-behind lead. Bituli led the defense with 19 tackles.
“You want everyone on your team to be like Daniel Bituli,” Pruitt said. “I can’t find one characteristic or one intangible that’s not great about him. He’s a phenomenal leader and a great young man.”
Up next, Tennessee has a bye week. The Vols will travel to Missouri on Nov. 23. The kickoff time has not been announced yet.
Edited by Christian Knox and Ciera Noe
Featured image courtesy of TNJN archives