No. 8 Texas A&M has dug No. 9 Tennessee another halftime hole — and the Vols handed them the shovel.
Tennessee lost three first half fumbles and the Aggies turned two of them into touchdowns, providing the cover for a 21-7 A&M lead at the break.
The first lost pigskin came just five minutes into the game when All-American Myles Garrett separated Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs from the ball at his own 26, and Trevor Knight capitalized five snaps later with a 13-yard strike to Christian Kirk.
Tennessee’s next fumble didn’t result in direct points for the opposition, but it did cost them an excellent chance to tie the game. Alvin Kamara, starting at tailback for the injured Jalen Hurd, bobbed and weaved 55 yards from the Tennessee 38 to the Texas A&M 7-yard line, but safety Armani Watts reached in and snatched the ball away to erase what would have been a first-and-goal situation late in the first quarter. Tennessee recovered from the fumble by forcing a punt and equalizing the score with a six-play, 71-yard drive capped by a four-yard Jujuan Jennings touchdown toss to Dobbs, but Texas A&M answered that answer by moving 75 yards in a half-dozen snaps to regain the lead at 14-7 with 2:04 to play in the first quarter.
Tennessee did not get a chance to tie the game at 14-14 because Evan Berry fumbled the ensuing kickoff return at his own 22 which, after a 15-yard penalty, lead to a seven-yard Knight dash to push the lead to 21-7.
Neither team scored in the second quarter.
When they haven’t coughed the ball up, Tennessee has moved through the A&M defense largely at will. Dobbs hit 7-of-14 throws for 113 yards in the half, and the Hurd-less team effort resulted in 23 carries for 143 yards.
Knight has connected on 9-of-19 passes for 114 yards with two scores and an interception while rushing another eight times for 30 yards and a score. Trayveon Williams has rushed 12 times for 67 yards.
Tennessee will receive to open the second half.