KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It was tough day at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Vols after their first-quarter momentum was short-lived.
Tennessee started the game off playing with a lot of confidence. In their first two drives, the Vols picked up 123 total yards of offense, six first downs, and a score.
With nine plays for 80 yards, Tennessee found the end zone after quarterback Jarrett Guarantano called his own number, capping off their second drive that lasted 4:42 with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Guarantano was able to find a hole after some good blocking from his offensive line, with credit to left guard Trey Smith’s pancake to help open up the run for his quarterback.
Tennessee’s defense matched the offenses’ intensity, with the secondary coming up big.
With 2:46 left in the first quarter, defensive back Bryce Thompson records his first interception on the season, getting his hands on Bo Nix’s pass in the end zone on the Tigers’ second drive.
Auburn’s offense got hit with a big loss early in the first quarter. True freshman back Tank Bigsby, who has amassed over 500 yards and five rushing touchdowns for the Tigers, suffered an injury on his second carry of the game that ended up sidelining him after halftime, but that did not halt the Tiger’s production on offense.
Auburn started to gain momentum, while Tennessee started to lose it.
With 12:06 in the second quarter Bo Nix completed a 54-yard-deep ball to Anthony Schwartz, who was wide open down the field. Tennessee’s busted coverage ultimately cost them 7—that play ignited a 27-point run for the Tigers.
The Vols had the ball with time expiring heading into half, but conservative play-calling ate up the clock with the teams headed into the locker rooms tied at 10 a piece.
The third quarter continues to be Tennessee’s Achilles Heel as their struggles out of the half continue.
With 2:21 left in the third quarter, Jarrett Gaurantano’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Smoke Monday, who took it from coast-to-coast, returning the interception for 100 yards to help the Tigers pull away 20-10.
Tennessee has been outscored 41-0 in the second half in last two games.
The Vols had an opportunity to chip away at the lead in the fourth. After nine plays for 72 yards, the Vols were in field goal range, but Brent Cimaglia missed from 37 yards out—his second botched field goal attempt that could have been six for the Vols.
After the Tigers scored 27 unanswered with 7:14 left in the fourth, Harrison Bailey tagged in at quarterback on Tennessee’s next possession.
The true freshman completed 3-4 for 29 yards in the Vols 9 play, 75 yards drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run for Eric Gray — Tennessee’s bright spot of the game.
Gray had a day for Tennessee, knotting his fourth game rushing for over 100 yards. Tennessee’s leading rusher ended the day with 22 carries for 49 yards and a score that cut the lead 27-17 with 4 minutes left in regulation. Gray also had three catches for 49 yards.
A 50-yard field goal from the Tigers made it 30-17, which was the final score of the game.
The Vols fall for the fifth straight game by double digits, the first time in school history dating back to 1891, according to ESPN’s Peter Burns.