For the first time in 35 years, the Kentucky Wildcats football team walked off the field at Neyland Stadium with a victory, stunning the 18th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers 34-7 on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats last won in Knoxville in 1984. It was also the biggest win over Tennessee since 1935.
Once again, the Kentucky defense led the way, forcing four turnovers in the first half, including a fumble recovery by Marquan McCall and three interceptions, all in the second quarter from Kelvin Joseph, Jamin Davis and Tyrell Ajian, to continue a remarkable streak of nine interceptions over the past two games. The Cats had six interceptions in last week’s home win over Mississippi State.
As the Kentucky offense struggled early, the defense turned in a rare back-to-back, pick-six performance that started when Joseph, an LSU transfer, picked off Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano for a 41-yard touchdown return at the 12:47 mark. On the Vols next possession, Davis got into the act with his own 85-yard interception run with 10:33 left in the half.
Guarantano was then pulled for backup quarterback J.T. Shrout, who was intercepted by Aijan that resulted in a 30-yard field goal by Matt Ruffolo to extend the lead to 17-0. Tennessee’s Guarantano then returned to lead the Vols on a 14 play, 75-yard scoring drive to cut the lead to 17-7 at the half.
The Wildcats offense finally got into a rhythm in the third quarter as the Wildcats marched 76 yards on 11 plays as quarterback Terry Wilson connected with Allen Dailey on a short pass to give Kentucky a 24-7 advantage with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
Kentucky added a 49-yard field goal by Ruffolo and Chris Rodriguez scored on a 2-yard run with 10:54 remaining in the game to close the scoring.
With the meat of the SEC schedule on the horizon (Georgia and Alabama), the Kentucky secondary has provided a much-needed shot of adrenaline for a team that has struggled to find balance offensively.
Terry Wilson and company did move the chains in the second half, resulting in a couple of scoring drives, but still left some points on the field with too many dropped passes. However, Wilson continued to increase his efficiency by finishing 12-for-15 for 101 yards.
Fortunately, Kentucky’s defense provided all the momentum needed to get the victory and Jamin Davis gets the MVP nod this week after recording double-digit tackles for the second straight game and scoring on an 85-yard interception. The inside linebacker has now had an interception in back-to-back weeks and had a team-high 11 tackles against Mississippi State. He finished with 12 tackles and an interception against the Vols.
Kentucky, now 2-2, will play at Missouri next week.
Last time we won in Neyland: today pic.twitter.com/H3ViaiMAF8— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 17, 2020