It almost took an entire month for the Vols to find the damn end zone, however, Tennessee is still searching for a win.
The offense had their best game since the beginning of the season, but the defense failed the program yet again as the Vols fell to the Wildcats and 0-5 in the SEC.
The game started off perfectly for Tennessee when sophomore running back Benny Snell, Jr fumbled the ball on the first offensive snap of the game. Tennessee defensive back Nigel Warrior recovered the fumble and UT's offense was able to get the first points of the game after Brent Cimaglia hit his 30-yard field goal attempt.
Kentucky fumbles the first snap. Tennessee recovers.— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) October 28, 2017
But Snell, Jr. made up for his fumble on the next offensive possession for Kentucky, rushing for 37 yards and a touchdown on three attempts to put the Wildcats up, 7-3.
The Vols thought they had their first offensive touchdown in over 14 quarters when freshman running back Ty Chandler broke off an 81-yard touchdown run, but it was called back on a holding penalty. The Vols were still able to get a field goal out of the drive and trailed Kentucky, 7-6.
Josh Smith gets flagged for holding, and that brings back the 80-yard TD run by Chandler— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) October 28, 2017
Snell, Jr. would fumble for the second time on the next drive, but the Vols could not capitalize on the turnover. Cimaglia missed his 44-yard attempt when the ball hit the left upright and fell haplessly to the ground.
But Snell, Jr. made up for the fumble again. It only took three carries to get to the end zone for the second time and extend the lead to 14-6.
Both teams would trade punts before it finally happened: Tennessee would score their first offensive touchdown in 15 quarters.
Finally. Football was back in full swing on Rocky Top after almost a month's absence.
Under center, behind Trey Smith....finally, that’s how it’s done pic.twitter.com/oJnEq24snu— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) October 29, 2017
The drive featured a good mix of pass and run offense by the Vols. They drove 75 yards in seven plays and did not have one negative play. The drive did not give them the lead, but it gave them confidence to continue to execute an efficient offense.
The defense had a miserable first half, especially the run defense. That showed after Kentucky destroyed Tennessee on the ground on the next drive with who else - but Benny Snell, Jr. He ran for over 40 yards and his third touchdown of the first half to put Kentucky up, 21-13.
But lo and behold, the Vols would come back and score their second straight offensive touchdown of the game. The Vols had yet to score touchdowns on back to back drives since the Indiana State game back in Week 2.
The Vols had a very nice mix of pass and run again to set up the scoring drive. UT's defense was finally able to shut down Kentucky's offense and the Vols would go into halftime down one point, 21-20.
The offense finally showed up for Tennessee, but the defense did not. Both teams obliterated each other on the ground, rushing for a combined 303 yards at halftime.
The Vols had one of their most efficient halves on offense, generating points on four of six drives. Chandler had over 100 total yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Your halftime stats. Vols trail 21-20, but the offense has looked better in this game than they have in a month: pic.twitter.com/gGhALpoLOx— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) October 29, 2017
Due to one of the strangest penalties of all-time, the Vols had one of their best defenders, linebacker Daniel Bituli ejected from the game due to a second unsportsmanlike penalty. Before the penalty, every player on both teams were given unsportsmanlike penalties earlier in the game due to an on-field scuffle.
The Vols received the ball after the half and were able to move the ball at a decent pace until a sack derailed the drive and forced them to punt. They didn't come away with any points, but at least Tennessee was able to give their defense an extended rest.
The rest seemed to help the Vols. After allowing yet another big play by Kentucky, the Vols were able to come up with their third takeaway of the game.
Quarterback Steven Johnson started off with a 35-yard run on a third-and-five from Kentucky's own 11-yard line. Johnson would leave the game limping after the run.
Johnson's injury provided a major break for Tennessee. The Vols recovered a fumble by backup quarterback Drew Barker as he was scrambling for yardage on a broken play.
The Vols moved down the field pretty easily after the turonver, led by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. He was able to use both his legs and arm to make plays, but poor execution on a 3rd-and-goal left Tennessee out of the end zone.
Cimaglia nailed his 30-yard attempt to put the Vols up, 23-21.
Johnson would come back on the field after missing a few plays and he immediately provided a spark, taking off for a 17-yard scamper to set the Wildcats up at midfield.
But a jarring hit on receiver Garrett Johnson forced the fourth fumble of the game for Kentucky and the Vols recovered again.
Tennessee took over in Kentucky territory and was moving the ball well until Kentucky's pass rush forced Guarantano to commit an intentional grounding penalty, killing the drive and setting the Vols up with a long field goal attempt.
Cimaglia made the 45-yard try this time and gave the Vols their biggest lead of the game, 26-21.
The Cats came out and did absolutely nothing on the next drive. Part of it was due to an aggressive Tennessee defense, but something also seemed different about the offense. There wasn't as much energy on the Cats side, they were dropping passes, and they were going down much easier than before when tackled.
Could it be a result of the Tennessee hangover after losing 31 of the last 32 contests? The Vols didn't need to wait around to find out the answer - the next upcoming drive would be their chance to put this game away for good with a touchdown.
Guarantano hit receiver Josh Palmer for a 16-yard gain on a huge 3rd-and-six to keep the drive alive and the Vols were able to get a decent drive going before another sack kept Tennessee from reaching the end zone yet again.
Cimaglia could not come through when he was needed the most and missed his 43-yard attempt wide left. He never had a shot at making the kick.
Tennessee was able to move the ball on the ensuing possession, but the fifth sack of the game for Kentucky screwed things up for the Vols.
Kentucky took over on their own 28-yard line with around five minutes left to play. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Snell, Jr. ripped off a 12-yard run on the first play. Rashaan Gaulden was thrown out of the game shortly after. Things were already looking dire for the Vols just five plays into the drive.
The Wildcats were able to push it all the way down to the Vol 14-yard line within a couple of minutes, but the Vols defense were able to force Kentucky into a big 3rd-and-2. Snell, Jr. was able to get the first down on a hard run to give Kentucky a first down with under a minute to play.
Steven Johnson would then take off for a 12-yard touchdown run to give Kentucky the lead for good. A two point conversion would give the Cats a three-point edge, 29-26.
The Vols were able to get themselves in position to attempt a final 51-yard Hail Mary attempt, but came up three yards short of the game winning touchdown. Kentucky was able to seal up their second victory over Tennessee in 33 years.