Tennessee dropped their home opener to Georgia State this afternoon in Neyland Stadium after entering the game as 24.5 point favorites. The Vols looked lifeless, unprepared and frankly uninterested for much of the afternoon.
Here’s how it played out.
The 2019 season — and this game — started just about as poorly as it could have. Jarrett Guarantano threw a swing pass to Ty Chandler, which was bobbled and fumbled. Georgia State immediately recovered, setting up shop in the Tennessee redzone.
The Panthers cashed in quickly, running right at the Volunteers to jump out to a 7-0 lead.
After the disastrous start, it was important for the Tennessee offense to respond early on. The offensive line, which started Wanya Morris, Ryan Johnson, Brandon Kennedy, Riley Locklear and Marcus Tatum, settled in and got a consistent push on the next drive.
Tennessee utilized Eric Gray and Ty Chandler to get down the field, along with some help from Marquez Callaway and Jarrett Guarantano through the air. It was a 16 play drive capped by a Callaway fade in the back corner of the season to bring things back to even.
The Tennessee defense stepped up on the next possession, getting a sack from Shawn Shamburger on a blitz to force a three and out.
That new look offensive line — with Trey Smith checked into the ballgame — kept on moving bodies. It was Ty Chandler scoring from 31 yards out to put Tennessee up 14-7, which was their first lead of the game.
After trading punts, Georgia State settled down and found an offensive groove. The Panthers went for it on 4th and 1 in Tennessee territory. They were able to convert, kicking an impressive drive into motion. Dan Ellington hit the Vols through the air and on the ground, keeping the sticks moving on key third downs.
It was a 16 play drive for Georgia State, which was capped by a touchdown pass from Dan Ellington to tie the game at 14 all.
With three minutes to play in the first half, Tennessee had a chance to break the tie before halftime. After a few runs, it was Jauan Jennings jolting Tennessee back to life. A 34 yard gain had Tennessee in business at the 25 yard line of Georgia State. Jennings caught another over the middle for 15 more, before Guarantano found Gray to get down to the three yard line.
But Tennessee failed to find the endzone. Brent Cimaglia did nail a field goal to give Tennessee a 17-14 advantage heading into the break.
If you were looking for an inspired effort coming out of the break, you were sorely disappointed. Georgia State walked right down the field and scored once again, taking the lead back from the Volunteers. It was a nine play drive that went 75 yards for the score.
The Tennessee offense once again found themselves in need of an answer. It didn’t come on the following drive. Jeremy Pruitt opted to go for it on 4th and 3, but came up empty on a pass to Josh Palmer.
Finally, the defense stood tall to give the offense another chance. Guarantano was able to get Tennessee across midfield, but a huge Georgia State sack stopped the drive in its tracks.
Cimaglia was able to hit from 48 yards out, cutting the Georgia State lead to 21-20.
Georgia State came back with the makings of another long drive. Back to back third down conversions had the Panthers across midfield and driving once again. Just when things starting looking really concerning, Tennessee came up with a sack fumble. LaTrell Bumphus recovered, giving the Vols new life.
Guarantano then found Dominick Wood-Anderson for a huge gain, flipping the field. Wood-Anderson was pushed out at the Georgia State 23 yard line — which is right where the drive died.
Cimaglia added another three points, giving Tennessee the lead back at 23-21.
The Tennessee defense couldn’t build off that big stop on the previous drive, however. Georgia State went right back to work on the ground, chewing up the clock and the first down marker. Derrick Ansley’s defense quite simply didn’t have an answer for the option, which the Panthers utilized from the shotgun all the way down the field.
Tra Barnett walked into the endzone to make it a 28-23 game with 8:56 remaining.
Once again Jarrett Guarantano had a chance to put a drive together to go get the lead back, but he was sacked — and fumbled — handing the ball right back to Georgia State. It was Dan Ellington quickly scoring on the other end for the Panthers.
Just like that, it was 34-23 Georgia State with under five minutes to play. Jarrett Guarantano drove the nail into the coffin on the next drive, tossing an interception to seal it.
Tennessee starts the season 0-1 — with this season suddenly looking a whole lot different than it did this morning.
Final Score: Georgia State 38, Tennessee 30