Tennessee football’s top five performers in 45-42 win at Kentucky

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Nov 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) catches a pass in the end zone putting the Tennessee Volunteers ahead of the Kentucky Wildcats 44-35 during the fourth quarter at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

A shootout involving tons of big plays generated a lot of heroes for Tennessee football as the Vols pulled off their biggest win of the Josh Heupel era. In the process, they beat the Kentucky Wildcats 45-42, their first win over a top 25 team in three years, the last time also coming at UK’s expense, and they moved to 5-4 and 3-3 in the SEC, effectively guaranteeing a winning season.

It was a back and forth game with five lead changes, nine if you count leads to ties or broken ties as lead changes. Then the Vols made multiple key stands late to pull out the victory. As we get set to name the players most responsible for these stands, know they come on both sides of the ball.

Sure, the defense struggled severely throughout the night, but key players on defense made huge plays when needed to make sure Rocky Top held onto this win. We have to name them, but to be fair, we could have named 10 guys on offense alone. Let’s take a look at who stood out the most. These were Tennessee football’s five best performers in their win at Kentucky.

Cedric Tillman
Wide receiver Redshirt junior

6 catches, 79 yards, 1 TD

Three receivers on the day had over 70 yards, two of whom had a touchdown catch of over 70 yards. Jalin Hyatt could have been a fourth and third respectively, as he had a 41-yard catch that should have been a touchdown reception of over 70 yards, but he was ruled out at midfield. Then there’s tight end Jacob Warren, who had an 18-yard touchdown catch.

Cedric Tillman was the most consistent receiver. All of his catches came at key moments, including his first, a one-yard gain that went for a first down to keep a UT drive alive when it trailed 21-14. He then caught three straight passes to pick up 35 yards with 19 seconds left in the first half to set the Vols up for a field goal, which put them up 24-21 at halftime.

In the second half, as the Vols clung to a 38-35 lead in the fourth, Tillman came back for an amazing 37-yard catch. He caught a six-yard touchdown on the next play. Simply put, he was clutch for Tennessee football all night, and that’s why he makes this list.

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