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Alontae Taylor backs up talk, delivers game-changing play to push Tennessee to win over Kentucky

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Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

You don’t lose to Kentucky.

That was the message from senior cornerback Alontae Taylor this week, speaking on the Tennessee-Kentucky series. The Volunteers did lose to Kentucky in 2020 — they were blown out, actually — which left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth for over a year.

Fast forward to 2021, just days after he made that statement, and it was Alontae Taylor delivering perhaps the biggest play of the game for Tennessee.

Both sides were trading touchdowns at that point, and it felt like a game that would be determined by who would blink first. That answer turned out to be Kentucky, and it was Taylor delivering for the Volunteers.

Taylor picked off Will Levis and took it all the way back to the house to give Tennessee a ten point lead in the mid-third quarter.

“We knew No. 1 [Robinson] was their go-to guy,” Taylor said after the game. “We were just playing kind of like a Cover-2 to the field. I just made sure to give the quarterback a read that I was gonna take the tight end vertical, made the flat seem like it was wide open. I knew I had the flats the whole time, so I just baited him into that, and as soon as I seen his shoulders turn, I just drove on it. I knew that was my responsibility, and I had help over the top.”

Tennessee was able to hang on to that lead for the rest of the night, coming up with a late stop to seal the deal over the 18th ranked Wildcats. The defense was not good on Saturday night, playing 99 snaps as Kentucky pretty much go whatever they wanted. Ironically, it was this big defensive play that tipped the scales in favor of the Vols.

The win was the fifth of the season for Josh Heupel’s year one Vols, who now have a chance to close the regular season with a 7-5 mark.