Tennessee football lost its fourth straight game on Saturday, falling to the Kentucky Wildcats. Here are five takeaways from the Volunteers’ loss.
Make it 3-5 overall and 0-5 in the SEC. This is where Tennessee football stands after a 29-26 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. The Vols gave up a touchdown to Stephen Johnson with 30 seconds left despite leading for much of the second half.
They ended the game with a Hail Mary completion from Jarrett Guarantano to Jeff George, but George went down three yards short of the end zone. So Kentucky and Mark Stoops escaped with the win to get to 6-2 and bowl eligible for a second straight year.
It’s the first time since 1984 that the Wildcats beat Tennessee and were bowl eligible in the same year. And it’s the first time since 2011 that they beat the Vols at all.
Here are five takeaways from Tennessee football’s loss to Kentucky.
1. The Vols failed to capitalize off opportunities.
Kentucky committed four turnovers on the night, and Stephen Johnson actually went out for a play. That should have been enough for Tennessee football to win this game. But they couldn’t. The Vols got a grand total of nine points off of Kentucky’s four turnovers, and it bit them. Not only did they force four turnovers, but they committed none themselves, and they also out-gained the Wildcats in offense. So how did they lose?
2. Red zone play was once again an issue.
Carrying a theme that has plagued Tennessee football all year, Butch Jones’s Vols were once again horrendous in the red zone. The Vols’ first two offensive possessions were in the red zone, and they came away with six points overall. They then had to settle for another field goal in the red zone in the second half. Brent Cimaglia was four of six on the night, and in two of those red zone drives, the Vols got to the six-yard line. They would then get pushed back for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is our next post.
3. Offensive line play was horrible!
The Tennessee football offensive line blocked well for the rushing attack in the first half. After that, though, they did nothing right. The line gave up seven sacks on the night to eight different Kentucky players. We knew that sacks would be an issue in this game, but this was flat-out terrible. Guarantano got no protection for much of the night, and the mistakes were blatant. At the same time, they committed multiple key penalties, which leads to our next point.
4. Penalties were horrendous.
Tennessee football committed nine penalties for 54 yards. Of course, there was one play where every player on both teams got an unsportsmanlike conduct. That came back to bit the Vols as Rashaan Gaulden committed his second on the final Kentucky drive and had to be ejected. Meanwhile, the line committed multiple penalties to stop the Vols from scoring touchdowns on multiple red zone trips. And it wasn’t just them. Josh Smith committed an unnecessary holding penalty that brought back a Ty Chandler touchdown. But speaking of Chandler, there’s one small positive from this game.
5. The entire backfield showed promise.
Hey, this unit did help in the month-long touchdown drought. Jarrett Guarantano developed on the fly in this game. He began to pick up pre-snap reads and got rid of the ball a little more quickly in the pocket. These are all positives. Meanwhile, without John Kelly, Tennessee football still had no trouble in the backfield. Ty Chandler gained 120 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns, and he also led the team in receiving. Carlin Fils-Aime was a great backup too, gaining 73 yards on 13 carries. All of these guys are young and have a future. But they may need a different coach to develop them.
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