It sure didn’t take long for Jeremy Pruitt to return UT to its winning ways when it comes to playing the Kentucky Wildcats.
Pruitt’s defense smothered the Wildcats’ offense, making them look one-dimensional as ever en route to his second win over a top-25 program in 2018.
An efficient offensive gameplan provided the perfect balance and the Vols sent Kentucky further on their downward spiral
Go figure. The Wildcats went with Benny Snell Jr on every play of their first offensive possession.
Snell Jr was very effective on the first few plays of the drive, but a big defensive stop on 3rd-and-1 left Kentucky in a punting situation. It was a great play by defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who blew up the interior line, forcing Snell Jr to bounce his path outside into the waiting arms of the Tennessee defense.
Jarrett Guarantano came right out on first down an launched one deep to Jauan Jennings that fell short, but a defensive pass interference call on Derrick Baity Jr. gave the Vols 15 yards and an automatic first down at the Kentucky 27.
A 12-yard run by Ty Chandler left the Vols with a respectable 2nd-and-3. Chandler received the ball on another handoff and he looked to have plenty of room until Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel knifed through the offense and took down Chandler.
Dominick Wood-Anderson dropped a would-be first down catch on 3rd-and-6 and the Vols had to punt.
Tennessee’s defense held strong on the next drive, forcing a three-and-out. Kentucky’s offense managed just five yards on the possession.
A good return by Marquez Callaway gave Tennessee the ball at their own 42. Tyson Helton dialed up another deep ball on first down - this time to Jordan Murphy - and the Vols didn’t need a penalty to move downfield.
Guarantano dropped another dime into Murphy’s chest for a 38-yard gain and the Vols were in business.
They were able to get down inside the Kentucky five, but the Wildcat defense held strong and the Vols settled for a 19-yard field goal from Brent Cimaglia to give them a 3-0 lead.
Kentucky decided to change things up on their next drive and threw the ball on three of their first four plays. They were able to find success and finally began to string some plays together after totaling just 23 yards on their first two drives.
But the Tennessee defense clamped down and threw Adrian Middleton for an 8-yard loss on first down in Vols territory. It was enough to hold Kentucky to a field goal attempt, which kicker Chance Poore pushed wide right to preserve the Volunteer lead.
Kentucky ran 14 plays and came away with no points. This was the perfect opportunity for the Vols to make a big statement.
The drive couldn’t have started any better after Guarantano found Palmer over the middle on a deep crossing route for a 25 yard gain on the first play. Unfortunately, Tennessee couldn’t build off that reception due to good play from the Kentucky defense.
Punter Joe Doyle still made them pay though, pinning the Wildcats inside their own 3-yard line.
The Vols held strong and forced a three-and-out.
The next three drives saw both teams hold strong defensively, highlighted by sacks from both Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor.
The Vols received the ball with a little under five minutes to go in the second quarter. A 29-yard run by Chandler keyed a drive where Guarantano found Jordan over the middle for a 34-yard completion inside the Kentucky 2-yard line. Jordan punched it in on the next play and the Vols led 10-0.
**Sidenote: The SEC Network announcers repeatedly called it as Dominick Wood-Anderson made the 34-yard reception instead of Tim Jordan. They even doubled down on it during the live highlight run. Good stuff.
Taylor was able to get to Wilson again and force Kentucky into another three-and-out on the next possession. Kentucky finished the second quarter with just one total yard.
But that wasn’t even close to the highlight of the first half. As the second quarter drew to a close, the Vols found themselves on the Kentucky 39 with six seconds to go.
Tennessee decided to give it a shot and dialed up a deep ball for the hail mary try. Guarantano was able to step up, avoid pressure, and delivered yet another dime to Callaway in the end zone to give the Vols a 17-0 lead.
Marquez Callaway's first receiving touchdown of the season comes in emphatic fashion, as time expires in the first half against Kentucky pic.twitter.com/Jr1jUvhVNt— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) November 10, 2018
UT went into halftime with all of the momentum and would receive the ball to start the second half. Could they come out and put another nail in Kentucky’s coffin?
In a short answer, no. The offense was held to a three-and-out, but thanks to their linebacker on the other side in Daniel Bituli, the defense was able to do the same to Kentucky.
The next drive was a thing of beauty for the Vols. Another big play from Jordan Murphy keyed the drive, except this time it was a 58-yard run on a reverse sweep that took Tennessee all the way down to the UK 16.
Call him "Big Play" Jordan Murphy pic.twitter.com/2dDhWbEDC5— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) November 10, 2018
A physical run by Tim Jordan took the ball inside the 5-yard line and Guarantano found Wood-Anderson all alone in the end zone to push the lead to 24-0.
Kentucky tried to get something going by pushing the Snell agenda, but the defense shut them down as they had all day long.
Tennessee took back over at their own 11-yard line. Three plays later, they were punting the ball.
With just over four minutes to play in the third quarter, Kentucky needed something to happen now.
Great field position had the Wildcats starting at their own 40 and that’s exactly what they needed to get things going.
Wilson found a wide-open Tavin Richardson for a 20-yard reception on 2nd-and-1 that took the Wildcats inside the red zone. Wilson then hit C.J. Conrad in the right corner of the end zone for a beautiful 19-yard throw-and-catch that put Kentucky on the board for the first time all game long, 24-7.
How would the Vols’ offense respond?
The answer was a three-and-out. Tennessee needed to get a defensive stop or else the Wildcats would be right back in the game.
A big fourth down conversion helped Kentucky drive all the way down to the Vols’ 11-yard line, but a good pass breakup by Marquill Osborne - who had come in for an injured Bryce Thompson - kept the Cats at bay and they had to settle for a field goal attempt.
Well, that ended terribly as Shy Tuttle broke through the front lines and blocked his second kick of the season. A dejected Poore - and Wildcats team - walked off the field knowing that was probably their last, best shot at a comeback.
That seemed to be the case as Tennessee was moving the ball down the field, but a Chandler fumble and a Wildcat recovery brought Kentucky right back into the game.
Until Vols’ linebacker Darrell Taylor came crashing in from the right side on 2nd-and-10 and strip-sacked Wilson. Taylor also recovered the football, completing the trifecta and possibly sealing the win for Tennessee.
It was his third sack of the game, matching a season and career-high set against Georgia earlier in the year.
But Taylor’s efforts were to no avail as Madre London fumbled the drive in Kentucky territory on the very next drive. At this point, the Vols were just trying to give the game away.
A facemask penalty on what looked to be a Tuttle sack put the Vols’ defense in bad shape, but Taylor came through yet again for his fourth sack of the game, leaving Kentucky with a 2nd-and-23.
A 19-yard run by Wilson gave the Cats a very manageable 3rd-and-4. Wilson tried to complete a pass to Richardson under pressure, but it was tipped and picked off by none other than Osborne himself.
The Vols were able to eat enough clock on the next drive to thwart any type of comeback by the Wildcats. Osborne picked off Wilson again on the final drive to officially put the Wildcats out of their misery.
The Vols are now 5-5 on the season (2-4) and will take on the Missouri Tigers next Saturday in Neyland Stadium.