On Saturday, the Tennessee Vols took down No. 11 SEC rival Kentucky. This was a key win to get the Vols back on track for a bowl game. This game featured a rare sight: both sides of the ball working together and performing well. The win was the team’s second victory over a ranked team this season and will surely propel them forward through the last two games and into the postseason.
Here is what we learned from the win:
1. Defense, Defense, Defense
The Vols’ defense completely imposed their will on the Kentucky offense on Saturday. The defense held Kentucky to just 262 yards overall. The biggest factor to stifling the Wildcats’ offense was containing Benny Snell. The All-SEC running back was held to just 81 yards on 20 carries. His longest run of the night only went for 19 yards. Another big factor in shutting down the Kentucky offense was the ability to get to the quarterback. Anyone who has watched Kentucky knows that Terry Wilson is less-than-stellar as a passer and even worse when under pressure. The defense took note of this and constantly looked to pressure him any chance they got, and they got a lot of chances. The Vols sacked Wilson five times, four of those sacks being from Darrell Taylor. The pass-rusher also picked up seven tackles overall.
2. Two-headed Monster at Running Back
Getting the ground game going was a big point of emphasis this week after the Vols barely managed to produce anything on the ground last week against Charlotte. Tennessee racked up 215 rushing yards against Kentucky. This was mainly due to the two-headed monster at running back, but also in part to a surprisingly good performance by the offensive line. Both Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan split the carries at running back. Chandler picked up 89 yards on the ground while Jordan rushed for 63 yards and scored a touchdown. Jordan also caught two passes for 41 yards.
3. Explosive Plays
One of the many ills of the offense this season has been the clear lack of explosive plays. Even when the offense has been ticking in certain games, it has been by numerous 8-12 yard plays and not by a 33-yard pass or a 27-yard rush. That all changed on Saturday night. The Vols had seven plays that went over 20 yards, four of them being passes. This increase of explosive plays greatly helped the Tennessee offense move down the field and score points.
4. Key Contributors
While the win yesterday was a team victory that featured both sides of the ball playing well, it was largely due to a handful of players making big plays. On offense, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano had one of his better games of the season. He was fairly consistent and threw some pretty good balls downfield, most notably the 39-yard pass to Marquez Callaway at the end of the first half. Jordan Murphy also made two very big plays. He had a 38-yard catch and busted off a 59-yard run on an end-around. Both plays eventually lead to a touchdown for the Vols.
On defense, Daniel Bituli and Taylor both had monstrous games. The two combined for 12 tackles, four sacks, and six-and-a-half tackles for loss. Those two were monumental in shutting down Kentucky’s offense.