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Kentucky Football

Kentucky Crushes Vols and Demons in Knoxville

October 17, 2020
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Kentucky changed up their schedule coming into Knoxville this year, choosing to stop on the road for a practice at the University of the Cumberlands before continuing on down to Neyland Stadium. Coach Stoops cited a need to break up the bus ride after rough recent outings at Tennessee. Maybe it was the changeup on Friday, or maybe it was something else, but it worked. Kentucky came into Neyland Stadium as an underdog to face the 18th ranked Volunteers but dominated the game beginning to end. 

The 34-7 victory exorcised demons for Kentucky, who won in Knoxville for the first time since 1984. Terry Wilson added another notch in his belt, becoming the first Kentucky quarterback since Derrick Ramsey in 1976 and 1977 to win at both Florida and Tennessee. The Wildcats moved to 2-2 on the year.

The defense continued their scorched-earth campaign, taking the ball away four times, on four straight possessions, no less, including back-to-back pick-sixes. Kelvin Joseph claimed the first with Jamin Davis nabbing his own, including an 85-yard return, on the very next series. A change in quarterback didn’t help the Volunteers, as Tyrell Ajian came away with yet another interception on the very next series.

The interceptions were the icing on the cake for a defense that gave up just seven points all day, paving the way for the Kentucky offense, who got off to a slow start before finding their rhythm. The defense also added two sacks and five tackles for loss, both sacks coming at huge moments to disrupt the Tennessee offense and kill drives. Boogie Watson, wearing Chris Oats’ #22 jersey, registered six tackles including one sack that prevented a Tennessee field goal attempt.

Offensively, the first half was a slog. Terry Wilson and co. didn’t have much of a chance to find their rhythm, missing out on multiple drives thanks to defensive scores. Once they did see the field, the Tennessee defense found early success shutting down the Kentucky run game. The first half ended with a 17-7 lead that felt much smaller.

After halftime, however, the offense began to shine, finding new energy behind Chris Rodriguez, who led the way with 73 yards and one touchdown on 13 rushing attempts. By the end of the day, Wilson was 12 of 15 for 101 yards and a touchdown. The offense found their rhythm in the second half, perfectly complementing a defense that gave no ground against Tennessee, cementing the blowout.

First Quarter

Kentucky got the ball first but started slow. AJ Rose rushed for a net of one yard on the first two plays before Terry Wilson was sacked on third down. Max Duffy came out for his first punt of the day on 4th and 13.

Tennessee’s offense found much more success to start, steadily moving the chains thanks to a combination of Ty Chandler and Eric Gray on the ground with a few completions from Guarantano balancing the attack. The Volunteers advanced to the Kentucky 30 yard line before the defense held them up. A huge sack from Boogie Watson on 3rd down pushed the Vols back and forced a punt.

Kentucky started on the ground again, going to AJ Rose, before Wilson connected with Josh Ali for an eight-yard gain and the first Kentucky first down of the day. After little success in the rushing game, the Cats threw on 3rd and 9 and connected with Josh Ali, who ran through some traffic to try to pick up the first down and had the ball stripped in the process. Tennessee recovered.

Tennessee opened the drive with a flea-flicker, trying to catch the defense off guard after the turnover. Kentucky stayed disciplined in coverage, however, and Guarantano was forced to throw it away. Tennessee went to Eric Gray on the ground who got a few yards but the Vols faced 4th and three when Guarantano went back to the air for two plays. On 2nd and two Guarantano’s throwing arm was bumped by the running back and he fumbled with Marquan McCall recovering for Kentucky.

The Cats took over at their own 27-yard line and Wilson completed three straight passes to move out to midfield. After the run game found little success, Wilson went back to the air but a holding penalty on Drake Jackson brought up 3rd and 21. Wilson was sacked for a loss of two and Kentucky punted.

Second Quarter

Tennessee went to Ty Chandler to start before a completion from Guarantano brought up a new set of downs. Chandler got the handoff on the next two plays, but on 3rd and four Guarantano threw, and Kelvin Joseph jumped in to get the interception and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. Ruffolo’s extra point made it a 7-0 game.

The Tennessee offense came right back out and leaned on Guarantano’s arm this time, completing passes on the first four plays of the drive. Eric Gray rushed for eight yards on 2nd and one, resetting the chains. Guarantano went to the air and the pass was picked by Jamin Davis, who ran it back 85 yards with a caravan of Wildcats around him. The second straight pick-6 gave the Cats a 14-0 lead.

Guarantano didn’t come back out on the ensuing drive, with JT Shrout instead taking the reins for Tennessee. It only took four plays this time before Tyrell Ajian made a diving interception, giving the Kentucky defense takeaways on four straight Volunteer drives. 

The Kentucky offense finally got a chance to come back out, starting on the Tennessee 37 yard line. The Cats stayed on the ground, rushing for some big gains including a 10-yard pickup by AJ Rose. On 3rd and three from the 12-yard line, Wilson threw to Keaton Upshaw in the end zone, who dropped the pass. The Cats settled for a 30-yard field goal, extending their lead to 17-0.

The Volunteer offense came out on a mission with 6:18 left in the first half and Guarantano back in at quarterback. The Volunteers mainly stuck with the rush game on a drive that lasted 14 plays and went 75 yards for Tennessee’s first score of the day. Eric Gray did the heavy lifting, carrying on nine straight plays before Ty Chandler took it into the end zone.

The Cats came back out with 1:36 left in the half and stayed on the ground, forcing Tennessee to take all three of their timeouts to preserve clock. Kentucky wasn’t able to move down the field, punting back to Tennessee with 1:16 left.

The Volunteers were stopped short by the Kentucky defense who continued their dominant performance, forcing a three-and-out. Kentucky ran out the clock to end the first half.

Third Quarter

Kentucky came out strong in the second half with the defense forcing another Tennessee three-and-out. It was the start Kentucky needed after losing some momentum at the end of the first half, and the offense fed on the success.

Terry Wilson came out confident, and the ground game finally found yards on the legs of Chris Rodriguez who ran into, through, and over Tennessee defenders. Wilson connected with Dailey for a big 14-yard pickup on 2nd and 7, and Chris Rodriguez immediately followed up that gain with 25 yards of his own. The Cats fed on the success, moving down the field in an efficient fashion, capped off by a pass from Wilson to Allen Dailey for the touchdown, extending the lead to 24-7.

Kentucky’s stifling defense kept it going, allowing one first down to the Volunteers thanks to a 10 yard rush by Chandler to open the drive. Immediately after, Jordan Wright flew into the backfield to sack Guarantano for a loss of nine yards, putting Tennessee behind the chains and leading to yet another punt. 

The Wildcat offense came back out to start at their own 42-yard line and brought out JuTahn McClain at running back. The freshman found some success, helping the Cats move down the field into scoring position. The drive was also helped along by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Tennessee bench, seemingly aimed at Coach Pruitt. Kentucky wasn’t able to find the end zone, settling for a field goal after Keaton Upshaw dropped a touchdown pass that would have come back anyway due to a penalty for an ineligible receiver. The Cats extended their lead to 27-7.

With the gap widening, Tennessee desperately needed points, but Kentucky was unforgiving, once again forcing a three-and-out. Another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Tennessee, this time against a player for kicking Kentucky’s JJ Weaver, helped to kill the drive before it had a chance to get started, and Kentucky forced another Tennessee punt to start the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Chris Rodriguez continued pounding the ball when Kentucky took over, racking up yards after contact up the middle. After three straight runs the Tennessee defense bit on Rodriguez up the middle again, giving Wilson room on the outside to pick up 23 yards up the left sideline. The Cats reset the chains at the Tennessee five-yard line, and it took three plays to make it into the end zone with Rodriguez getting the two-yard score. The Wildcats opened their lead to 34-7.

Tennessee swapped out at quarterback again, this time going to freshman Harrison Bailey. On the legs of Ty Chandler the Volunteers were able to find some yards and worked their way down the field slowly before three straight incompletions from Bailey turned the ball over on downs at the Kentucky 10 yard line.

Joey Gatewood came in at quarterback for Kentucky with JuTahn McClain and Travis Tisdale taking snaps at running back. The Kentucky offense churned the clock, throwing only once on an early 3rd and three where Gatewood connected with Mike Drennen to move the chains. Tisdale and McClain carried the workload with Gatewood rushing a few times for large gains. The Wildcats ran out the clock, with the game hitting 0:00 at the Tennessee 25 yard line.

 

After some changes to the schedule due to Covid tests around the league, Kentucky will now travel to Columbia MO next week to take on the Missouri Tigers.

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Kentucky Crushes Vols and Demons in Knoxville

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