Needless to say, a win tonight in any way possible would have been great. That’s what UK got in a 29-26 thriller (at least the final minutes were), and that’s all we should care about right now.
Sophomore running back Benny Snell was the star of the night, rushing for 180 yards and three scores on 27 carries in the win. But the run that everyone will remember was Stephen Johnson’s game-winning score with 30 seconds to cap off a wild comeback for the Cats.
Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano would complete a 48-yard Hail Mary pass to Jeff George that fell three yards short of the end zone as time expired.
Freshman running back Ty Chandler, replacing the suspended John Kelly, rushed for career bests of 120 yards and two second-quarter touchdowns to end Tennessee's offensive drought at 15 quarters.
Here the three things to know.
A Suboptimal Start
Bad starts. Slow starts. Disastrous starts. We’re running out of ways to describe the awful ways UK continues to begin football games. It’s almost like the players are thinking about it too much and making uncharacteristic mistakes on the first couple of drives.
This time, it was a Benny Snell fumble that was recovered by the Vols on first offensive play. Thankfully, it only led to a field goal for UT, and UK quickly responded with a scoring drive capped off by a five-yard scoring run.
But the slow start was just beginning for the defense, which then allowed the Vols’ offense to march right down the field on the ground. You’d have never guessed the Vols were without star running back John Kelly, but Ty Chandler looked just as good.
The slow start was bad, but it turned out to be more reflective of how the entire game would play out. The offense overcame ended up having four lost fumbles, but the Vols converted just nine points off them.
The Real Drake
Aside from the fumble, the offense looked good early on with Drake Jackson at center. The redshirt freshman has shown a lot of potential in recent weeks, so much that he seemingly had the job locked down for the rest of the season.
Jackson was actually injured on Snell’s touchdown run before being assisted off the field. The good news is he returned and helped pave the way for a monster day on the ground for UK.
Drake is the future at center, and it’s great to see the Cats’ offense is coming alive with him anchoring the middle.
This was the final stand of Butch Jones, and UK had the chance to be the final dagger in his embattled career as the Vols’ head coach. It looked very possible that Butch would be fired before making it to Lexington, being that his team had lost four of their last five games and failed to score an offensive touchdown since Sept. 24th.
Somehow, the Vols scored two touchdowns on drives that did not come off a UK turnover.
Amazingly, UK’s four turnovers led to just nine points for the Vols. Tennessee backup kicker Brent Cimaglia missed two field goal attempts in the game. That proved to be the difference in a close win.
Oh, and Butch Jones is a gonner.
This game was just ugly. No other way to put it. But a win is a win is a win.
Here is the final box score: