The Kentucky Wildcats 17-game losing streak at Neyland Stadium came to an end Saturday. Kentucky stunned the No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville with a 34-7 blowout victory to pick up their first road win over the Vols since 1984 and first victory over a ranked Tennessee team since 1959.
Here’s a recap of all the action from Kentucky’s historic victory:
Tennessee won the opening toss and elected to defer possession to the second half, putting Kentucky’s offense on the field first. The decision would prove wise as the Cats drive went backwards, leading to a three and out and a 47-yard Max Duffy punt.
The Vols opening drive began at their own 31-yard following the punt. They quickly moved into Kentucky territory as Jarrett Guarantano connected with Ramel Keyton for nine-yards and hit Brandon Johnson for a pair of five-yard gains. They then used the run game to move inside the UK 30-yard line as Eric Gray ran on three straight plays for a combined 15 yards. Kentucky’s defense would deliver, however, as on 3rd and 11 from the 31-yard line, Jamar “Boogie” Watson sacked Guarantano for a six-yard loss to force a Volunteers punt.
Kentucky’s ensuing possession would begin from their own 20-yard line after Paxton Brooks‘ punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback. UK would pick up their first, first down of the afternoon as Terry Wilson connected with Josh Ali for eight yards after a four-yard first-down run by A.J. Rose. That would be the lone first down of the drive as three plays later, Ali had the ball ripped away from him by Tennessee defensive back Bryce Thompson after a 12-yard gain. Thompson would recover the fumble and give the Vols possession at the UK 45-yard line.
Set up in excellent field position, Tennessee would pick up seven yards on the first three players of their ensuing possession and on 4th down and 3 picked up a first down with a four-yard pass to Johnson. Three plays later, UK caught a break as Guarantano fumbled after some miscommunication with his running back Ty Chandler and Marquan McCall recovered it, giving UK the ball back at their own 27-yard line.
With new life, UK’s offense began to heat up as Wilson connected with Keaton Upshaw, Justin Rigg and Allen Dailey Jr. to move the Cats to midfield. However, the drive would fizzle out as after a holding penalty on Drake Jackson, Wilson was chased out of bounds for a loss on 3rd and 21 on what would be the final play of the first quarter.
Score After First Quarter: Tennessee 0, Kentucky, 0
Tennessee would open the second quarter at their own 19-yard line after a 45-yard Duffy punt. The Vols would move to the UK 39-yard line after three Chandler runs and an 11-yard Guarantano pass to Josh Palmer. Then, it was UK’s defense making a play as Kelvin Joseph picked off Guarantano and returned it 41-yards for a Kentucky touchdown putting the Cats in front 7-0.
The Vols ensuing drive got off to a rough start as J.J. Weaver stopped Velus Jones Jr. for a five-yard loss but quickly got back on track as Guarantano connected with Johnson for 25-yards on the next play. Tennessee would move to the UK 36-yard line, but again it was Kentucky’s defense to find the end zone as Jamin Davis picked off Guarantano and returned it 85-yards for a touchdown to extend the Cats lead to 14-0.
After Guarantano’s poor start, Jermey Pruitt opted to go with J.T. Shrout under center on their next possession. The move would not payoff as Tyrell Ajian picked off Shrout on his first passing attempt setting up the Cats offense at the Tennessee 37-yard line.
Set up 37 yards from the end zone, UK used their run game to pick up a first down as Wilson ran for eight yards and on 3rd and short, Rose ran for 10 to move the Cats to the Tennessee 19-yard line. On 3rd down and short UK nearly extended the lead to 21-0, but Keaton Upshaw dropped a would-be touchdown catch in the end zone as Kentucky settled for a 30-yard Matt Ruffolo field goal to extend the lead to 17-0.
The Vols would go back to Guarantano at quarterback on their ensuing possession. After picking up a first down on their4th and 1 from their own 35, Tennessee got their run game going as Gray carried on nine straight plays for 61-yards to the UK 4-yard line. There, Chandler would punch in a four-yard touchdown to cut the Kentucky lead to 17-7 with 1:36 left in the half.
Kentucky would go three and out on their ensuing possession and punted the ball back to the Vols with 1:16 left in the half. The Vols would also go three and out as well, however punting the ball back to Kentucky with 50 seconds left before the half but UK would just run out the clock taking a 10-point lead into halftime.
Halftime Score: Kentucky 17, Tennessee, 7
Kentucky’s defense continued their stellar play after the half as they forced Tennessee three and out on their opening possession.
UK would begin their first drive of the half from their own 24-yard line. The drive would get off to a hot start as Wilson connected with Ali on a slant route for 16-yards. Two plays later, UK moved into Tennessee territory as Wilson connected with Allen Dailey Jr. for 14-yards, which was followed by a 25-yard Chris Rodriguez run to move the Cats to the Vols 18-yard line. Later in the drive, UK would find the end zone as Wilson found Dailey in the back of the end zone for a one-yard touchdown pass to extend the Kentucky lead to 24-7.
Kentucky would continue to build momentum as they forced another Tennessee three and out in large part due to a Jordan Wright sack of Guarantano that pushed the Vols back nine yards.
The Wildcats’ next possession would begin from their own 42-yard line after a 40-yard Brooks punt. Kentucky would quickly move inside the Tennessee 25 as Wilson hit Upshaw for 18-yards and after the play, Tennessee was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. UK would move inside the Tennessee 10-yard line after three JuTahn McClain runs for a combined 10-yards and a five-yard pass to DeMarcus Harris. The drive would end in three; however, as after UK failed to find the end zone, they settled for a 27-yard Ruffolo field goal to take a 27-7 lead.
The quarter would come to an end after Kentucky forced yet another Tennessee three and out after J.J. Weaver stopped Keyton for a loss and then was kicked in the groin, which led to another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Vols.
Score After Third Quarter: Kentucky 27, Tennessee, 7
The fourth quarter opened with a 33-yard punt from Books setting up UK at their own 46-yard line. Kentucky would quickly move into Volunteers territory with a pair of Rodriguez runs for a combined 20-yards. Two plays later, they’d move into the red zone as Wilson ran for 23-yards to the Volunteers five-yard line. Two plays later, Kentucky found the end zone as Rodriguez scored from two yards out to push the lead to 34-7.
Tennessee would turn to Harrison Bailey at quarterback on their ensuing possession. Bailey would lead the Vols to the red zone but on fourth down at the UK 10-yard line threw incomplete, turning the ball over on downs with 7:19 left in the game.
With a 27-point lead, UK turned to Joey Gatewood under center after Tennessee turned the ball over on downs. With the big lead, Kentucky got some of their freshman involved as Gatewood connected with Michael Drennen II for six yards and Torrance Davis got his first collegiate carry. Gatewood would lead Kentucky into Volunteers territory as he ran for 14 yards, which was followed by a seven-yard McClain run to the Tennessee 40-yard line. From there UK would simply run out the clock as they finished off their historic victory on Rocky Top.
Final Score: Kentucky 34, Tennessee, 7
MVP: Jamin Davis
For the second straight week, Jamin Davis was the best player on the field for the Wildcats. He grabbed an interception for the second straight week and this time returned it 85-yards for a touchdown. Davis also led the Wildcats in tackles for a second straight week as he totaled 12 tackles.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kelvin Joseph
In Kentucky’s first two games, Kelvin Joseph struggled mightily. He was able to grab an interception last week and against Tennessee continued to build momentum. Joseph recorded another pick, recording it 41-yards for a touchdown while making four tackles and breaking up a pass.
Photo: UK Athletics