Tennessee football: Turning points in Vols’ 34-7 loss to Kentucky

These were the key moments in the Tennessee football Volunteers’ loss to the Wildcats.

Despite a 34-7 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, Tennessee football was only a few plays away from making this a game. Everybody knows how this sport works, and it was no different in this game. A few key mistakes changed everything.

As we get set to deliver our turning points in the matchup, a couple are obvious. What happened in the first half when the Vols fell behind 17-0 all came down to a few big plays, and we’ll detail what happened in those situations.

However, it was a different sort of second half altogether, and Tennessee football was still in this game at halftime. What turned it into a blowout? Let’s break that down here. Here are the key moments that impacted the outcome of this game.

Jarrett Guarantano fumble at the Kentucky 26

Early on in the first quarter, Rocky Top was in position to take the lead. Bryce Thompson forced a Josh Ali fumble, and the Vols began driving. Guarantano converted a 4th and 3 pass to Brandon Johnson, and he then hit Velus Jones Jr. for an eight-yard gain to the Kentucky 26-yard line.

Then, on 2nd and 2, Guarantano tried to make a quick pass on a designed run play because UK wasn’t lined up. Ty Chandler, though, who was supposed to take the handoff, ran into Guarantano, and that caused a fumble that Kentucky recovered. UT blew a chance to go up early with that play.

Kelvin Joseph and Jamin Davis pick-sixes on back to back drives

After that Guarantano fumble, the Vols got a stop, and they went back to work on offense. Then everything fell apart. On 3rd and 4 from the UT 39, Guarantano telegraphed an out pattern that Kelvin Joseph intercepted and ran back 41 yards for a touchdown.

That gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead, but Guarantano appeared to be recovering. He completed three straight passes on the next drive, and an eight-yard run by Gray brought up a 1st and 10 at the Kentucky 28. Well, Guarantano then threw a pick-six to Jamin Davis. Tennessee football had blown two scoring opportunities in Kentucky territory and now spotted them a 14-0 lead.

JT Shrout pass intercepted by Tyrell Ajian

Three straight turnovers prompted Jeremy Pruitt to bench Jarrett Guarantano and bring in JT Shrout. It didn’t get any better, though, as a chop block brought up a 2nd and 21. Well, Shrout threw an interception to Tyrell Ajian.

The Vols defense came on and did what it could, but Kentucky was still close enough. They took over on the UT 37 yard line after all. As a result, one first down allowed them a chance to kick a field goal after the stop, and they nailed it to go up 17-0.

Kentucky stops Tennessee on 3rd and 2 to open the second half

This was the most underrated part of the game. The Vols cut it to 17-7 with a touchdown drive after all those turnovers and, set to get the ball in the second half, had every reason to believe they would come back without so many mistakes.

An eight-yard run by Gray brought up 3rd and 2. UT ran it again, but Kentucky got a stop. Jeremy Pruitt, trusting his defense, decided to punt on 4th and 1 from his own 30, something he never did. That put Rocky Top on edge, and it led to what happened at the end of the next drive.

Terry Wilson 3rd and goal touchdown pass to Allen Dailey Jr.

When we were talking about the next drive, this is what we were referring to. Kentucky drove the length of the field and brought up a 2nd and goal at the 1. Still, last year, Tennessee football had a goal-line stand to beat the Wildcats, and they looked like they could do it again.

After getting a stop on second down, their chances looked even better. However, on third down, Terry Wilson threw a fade to Allen Dailey Jr., and Dailey pushed off on Bryce Thompson to make the catch. An extra point that followed made it a three-score game, and UT would not recover.

If you take away Tennessee football’s four turnovers, and if Kentucky doesn’t convert that 3rd and goal, you’re at worst likely looking at a 16-13 game in favor of the Wildcats late. That’s how easily this game could have gone the other way. However, this is how football works, and the fact of the matter is the Vols made way too many mistakes to win.