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Tennessee in danger of first winless SEC season after falling to No. 20 LSU

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It was supposed to be a festive night at Neyland Stadium. Peyton Manning was in the house and Butch Jones wasn’t. But a driving rain and one player’s inability to field a punt dampened the night — pun intended — as No. 20 LSU cruised to a 30-10 win over Tennessee on a windy, soggy night in Knoxville.

Tennessee actually played an decent first half, which was largely erased by Marquez Callaway muffing not one but two punts.

Callaway’s first fumble came at his own 15 yard line, which LSU’s Russell Gage hopped on. The Tigers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession, but it was enough to allow Connor Culp to knock through a 30-yard field goal.

Tennessee answered with a 14-play, 53-yard drive that killed over half a quarter. The 7-minute, 39-second march ended at the LSU 27-yard line, allowing Aaron Medley to tie the game with a 45-yard boot with 13:59 left in the second quarter.

LSU’s offense went three-and-out again, but Callaway again fumbled the ensuing punt, which Michael Divinity, Jr. grabbed at the Tennessee 19. LSU’s offense capitalized this time, as Darrel Williams rushed in from 10 yards out to put the Tigers up 10-3 with 11:31 left in the frame. 

Tennessee strung together another double-digit play drive that ended at nearly the exact same spot as the previous one — this one was the 28 — but swirling winds pushed Medley’s 46-yard field goal (far, far) wide left.

But as the weather picked up, both offenses came alive.

LSU closed the half by putting up its first self-made points of the night. The Tigers needed only 28 seconds to move 61 yards as Danny Etling hit Derrick Dillon for a 12-yard completion, Williams rushed for 36 yards and Etling carried for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the first half.

The Vols struck back after LSU’s score, moving 75 yards in four plays and 45 seconds. Jarrett Guarantano hit Callaway for consecutive long passes, one for 26 yards and another for 46, which Callaway caught through pass interference and turned into a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

LSU completely dominated the second half, though. After forcing Tennessee back to its own 3 on the opening possession of the second half, LSU accepted the ball at midfield and handed the ball to Derrius Guice seven times in a 9-play drive, including the final carry,  a 3-yard burst to put the Tigers up 23-10 after Culp missed the ensuing extra point.

The clubs traded punts on their next possessions and, facing a 13-point deficit with 17 minutes remaining and nothing to lose, Brady Hoke elected to go for a 4th-and-1 from his own 21. Guarantano was stuffed, and LSU needed only two plays to push the lead to 30-10 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.

Etling finished the game hitting 11-of-15 passes for 81 yards with nine carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. Guice led all runners with 97 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, while Williams added seven carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Guarantano connected on 13-of-23 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, while John Kelly mustered only 47 yards on 25 carries.

Saturday night’s game was the two sides’ first meeting since 2011, also in Knoxville, which ended in a 38-7 LSU win. The Tigers have won five straight in the series.

The win keeps LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) in prime position for a spot in one of the Florida New Year’s Day bowl games, while Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC) needs to beat Vanderbilt next week to avoid the first 8-loss season and the first winless SEC season in school history.

Tennessee fumbles its way to a halftime deficit vs. LSU

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If only Marquez Callaway could catch a punt. Callaway’s two fumbled punts handed LSU 10 of its 17 points as Tennessee trails 17-10 at the half at a windy, rainy Neyland Stadium.

Callaway’s first fumble came at his own 15 yard line, which LSU’s Russell Gage hopped on. The Tigers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession, but it was enough to allow Connor Culp to knock through a 30-yard field goal.

Tennessee answered with a 14-play, 53-yard drive that killed over half a quarter. The 7-minute, 39-second march ended at the LSU 27-yard line, allowing Aaron Medley to tie the game with a 45-yard boot with 13:59 left in the second quarter.

LSU’s offense went three-and-out again, but Callaway again fumbled the ensuing punt, which Michael Divinity, Jr. grabbed at the Tennessee 19. LSU’s offense capitalized this time, as Darrel Williams rushed in from 10 yards out to put the Tigers up 10-3 with 11:31 left in the frame. 

Tennessee strung together another double-digit play drive that ended at nearly the exact same spot as the previous one — this one was the 28 — but swirling winds pushed Medley’s 46-yard field goal (far, far) wide left.

But as the weather picked up, both offenses came alive.

LSU closed the half by putting up its first self-made points of the night. The Tigers needed only 28 seconds to move 61 yards as Danny Etling hit Derrick Dillon for a 12-yard completion, Williams rushed for 36 yards and Etling carried for a 13-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the first half. Etling conected on 8-of-12 passes for 50 yards, and Williams led all rushers with 50 yards on three carries. Derrius Guice mustered only four carries for 10 yards.

The Vols struck back after LSU’s score, moving 75 yards in four plays and 45 seconds. Jarrett Guarantano hit Callaway for consecutive long passes, one for 26 yards and another for 46, which Callaway caught through pass interference and turned into a touchdown with 1:23 left in the first half.

hit 10-of-12 passes for 144 yards, and John Kelly led the Vols with 17 carries for 29 yards.

A 53-yard Culp field goal clanged off the right upright as time expired.

Tennessee will receive to open the second half.

Kentucky lights Butch Jones’s seat on fire with second defeat of Tennessee since 1985

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For all of the things Butch Jones hadn’t done in his five seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, there was at least this: he hadn’t lost to Kentucky. At least not yet.

That changed Saturday night, as the Volunteers fell 29-26 to the Wildcats in Lexington, clinching a bowl game for Kentucky and, in what is all but a formality at this point, the end of the Jones era in Knoxville.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the game and promptly fumbled, leading to a 30-yard Brent Cimaglia to put Tennessee on the board first. Wildcats running back Benny Snell, Jr., made up for his mistake by carrying the load on Kentucky’s next possession, including a 6-yarder across the goal line.

Tennessee responded with a nice 69-yard possession of its own, but the drive stalled at the Kentucky 6-yard line, forcing a 24-yard boot by Cimaglia, pulling the Vols within 7-6 late in the first quarter.

Kentucky fumbled again on its next touch, but Tennessee failed to capitalize when Cimaglia missed a 44-yarder.

Snell punched in a 2-yard score to open the second quarter, giving Kentucky a 14-6 lead, but Tennessee pulled within one with a 7-play, 75-yard drive. Ty Chandler‘s 1-yard rush gave the Volunteers their first offensive touchdown in almost four full games.

However, Kentucky answered with an identical drive: seven plays, 75 yards, punctuated by a 1-yard rush, Snell’s third of the half.

Now apparently unstoppable, an unleashed Tennessee offense responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that again concluded on a 1-yard Chandler (22 carries for 120 yards) rush with 1:25 to play before the break.

Tennessee returned to its regular, non-touchdown-scoring ways in the second half, though. The Vols registered a first-and-goal at the Kentucky 9 and then went backward, forcing a 30-yard Cimaglia field goal. The Vols’ defense forced another Kentucky fumble on the next possession, handing the offense the ball inside the UK red zone. But the Vols went backward from there, and a 45-yard Cimaglia connection gave Tennessee a 26-21 lead with 13:24 left in the game.

The Volunteers forced a three-and-out on Kentucky’s next touch and could have put the game away with a touchdown, but again the drive stalled and again Cimaglia trotted out for another field goal — which he missed from 43 yards out.

Those missing three points would prove crucial when Kentucky took over at its own 11 with 4:43 remaining. The Wildcats methodically moved down the field, leaning largely on Snell’s legs. Stephen Johnson leaped in for an 11-yard go-ahead touchdown with 33 ticks remaining, then found Snell for a 2-point conversion to put the Wildcats up three.

Tennessee moved to its own 49 with two seconds remaining, allowing Jarrett Guaranto to load up for another Hail Mary, which he completed to Jeff George — for 48 yards, leaving the Vols two yards short of a game-winning touchdown.

Snell finished the night rushing 27 times for a game-high 180 yards and three touchdowns. Kentucky sacked Guarantano seven times and surrendered none, helping the ‘Cats out-rush Tennessee, 289-203.

The loss snapped a 5-game winning streak over Kentucky and handed Tennessee (3-5, 0-5 SEC) just its second loss to its neighbors from the north since 1985.

The win lifted Kentucky to 6-2, making the Wildcats bowl eligible in October for the first time since 2007 and keeping them alive in the SEC East race behind Georgia.

Tennessee finally notches an offensive touchdown, still trails Kentucky

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Tennessee ended a month-long drought, but it still wasn’t enough to grab the lead as Kentucky holds a 21-20 advantage at the break in Lexington.

Kentucky accepted the ball to open the game and promptly fumbled, leading to a 30-yard Brent Cimaglia to put Tennessee on the board first. Wildcats running back Benny Snell, Jr., made up for his mistake by carrying the load on Kentucky’s next possession, including a 6-yarder across the goal line.

Tennessee responded with a nice 69-yard possession of its own, but the drive stalled at the Kentucky 6-yard line, forcing a 24-yard boot by Cimaglia, pulling the Vols within 7-6 late in the first quarter.

Kentucky fumbled again on its next touch, but Tennessee failed to capitalize when Cimaglia missed a 44-yarder.

Snell punched in a 2-yard score to open the second quarter, giving Kentucky a 14-6 lead, but Tennessee pulled within one with a 7-play, 75-yard drive. Ty Chandler‘s 1-yard rush gave the Volunteers their first offensive touchdown in almost four full games.

However, Kentucky answered with an identical drive: seven plays, 75 yards, punctuated by a 1-yard rush, Snell’s third of the half. Snell rushed a game-high 14 times for 125 yards and all three of Kentucky’s scores. Stephen Johnson hit 4-of-7 passes for 28 yards.

Now apparently unstoppable, an unleashed Tennessee offense responded with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that again concluded on a 1-yard Chandler rush with 1:25 to play before the break.

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One player for each team was ejected later in the half for accumulating two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

Chandler closed the half rushing 10 times for 87 yards and two scores, and Carlin Fils-aime has added 52 yards on 11 carries. Jarrett Guarantano completed 8-of-11 passes for 86 yards.

Tennessee will receive to open the second half.

Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor returning from suspension for Kentucky game

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In desperate need of some positive personnel news, Tennessee is on the receiving end of just that.

In a statement, beleaguered UT head coach Butch Jones announced that Darrell Taylor has been reinstated and will be available for tonight’s game against Kentucky.  The defensive tackle was initially suspended after being involved in a physical altercation with a teammate that reportedly involved Taylor kicking Trey Smith in the face.  The incident resulted in Smith needing stitches.

The suspension cost the redshirt sophomore games against South Carolina and Alabama.

“Darrell has completed the requirements we had set for him to return to play and he will be available tonight against Kentucky,” Jones said in the statement. “He must continue to meet criteria we have set forth for him on a daily and weekly basis.”

Taylor had started the first five games this season prior to the suspension.

It was announced earlier this week that John Kelly would be suspended for the game against the Wildcats after being cited for marijuana.  Kelly currently leads the Vols in both rushing and receiving.

Additionally, it was reported late this week that Quinten Dormady is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.  Dormady began the season as UT’s starting quarterback.

With Dormady out, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano, the new starter, and true freshman Will McBride are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at the moment.