Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020; TIAA Bank Field (Gator Bowl); Jacksonville, Fla.
We talked about that roll Tennessee football got on to close out the 2019 season with a 7-5 record, which seemed impossible given the way things started. Well, that was enough to get the Vols to their first bowl game in three years, and they would face the Indiana Hoosiers in the Gator Bowl, which was Butch Jones’ first bowl game too.
More from Vols Football
- How to Win a GUARANTEED $200 Bonus Betting Just $5 on the Vols vs. Florida!
- Tennessee Football at Florida: Five Keys to a Vols Victory
- Week 3 SEC Power Rankings: Did Tennessee Football’s Win Help At All?
- Week 3 AP Polls: Why Did Tennessee Football Drop in the Polls?
- Tennessee Football: Top Five Performers in 30-13 Win vs. Austin Peay
However, after earning his starting job back and willing UT to that record, Jarrett Guarantano inexplicably reverted to his old self in this game. It didn’t help that Jauan Jennings, his go-to receiver, was suspended for the first half.
Still, in an ugly field goal affair, the Vols only had a 6-3 halftime lead. Indiana then went up 10-6 by opening the second half with a touchdown, and Guarantano then threw a pick-six, which was his second interception of the game, causing UT to fall behind 16-6 after Indiana missed an extra point on that score.
Jeremy Pruitt then pulled Guarantano, and Brian Maurer led a field goal drive. Then Indiana hit two more field goals while the offense stalled under Maurer, so Pruitt made the bold decision to put Guarantano back in the game in the fourth quarter.
Finally, Guarantano got hot. Down 22-9 with seven minutes to go, Guarantano led the Vols on an 82-yard touchdown drive. They then recovered an onside kick and had a quick 54-yard scoring drive. The defense got two key stops late, thanks in large part to a clutch sack by Darrell Taylor on one of them, and the Vols held on for a 23-22 win.
Eric Gray was the star with 120 yards from scrimmage, the go-ahead touchdown and the onside kick recovery. Guarantano, however, did his part late, and together, this seemed like the Vols were entering a bright future under Pruitt. Little did they know what was about to hit.