Tennessee pulled off the upset than many talked about throughout the week, beating Auburn 30-24. It was a massive step for Jeremy Pruitt and the entire program, getting their first win over the Tigers since 1999.
How did they do it? Jarrett Guarantano absolutely lit up the Auburn secondary. The redshirt sophomore quarterback threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns on the day, powering the Tennessee offense.
“We had some good plays called that hit the right coverages,” Pruitt said. “Jarrett done a good job getting it to them and they high-pointed the ball, so it’s good to see things that they took from the meeting room to the practice field and execute it in a game. So that’s something they can build confidence on. Let me tell you, they done it against some really good players. Those guys in the secondary for Auburn, they can cover pretty well.”
It was the first time that we saw the reins loosen up on Guarantano since he’s been at Tennessee. Tyson Helton faced a number of third and long situations today and his only answer was a 50-50 jumpball to his playmakers on the outside. Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway and Josh Palmer answered the call today. Each of them produced a catch of 25+, helping out Guarantano and eventually sinking Auburn.
Jennings’ touchdown late in the third quarter was huge, considering it came on a key third and ten.
HE CAUGHT IT— James O'Saile (@PhilzLike1998) October 13, 2018
TOUCHDOWN TENNESSEE pic.twitter.com/pXLDuMWmLD
Here’s Palmer on another third and ten, converting a back shoulder throw from Guarantano.
And here’s Marquez Callaway converting — you guessed it — a third and ten.
There’s a lot to be said about why Tennessee was in so many third and long situations today, but these receivers absolutely came through in the clutch today. The fact remains that your best players are on the perimeter right now.
Tyson Helton and Jeremy Pruitt want to establish the run and impose their will, but that’s just not really an option right now. Tennessee’s running backs averaged a little over 2.5 yards per carry this afternoon. It’s a fascinating dilemma for Helton midway through the season. Will they embrace the passing game? Or continue to try and establish the run?
At least for the immediate, it seems like you’ve got to trust in the results of the passing game.