Gray shines as Vols fall to Tigers on the Plains.
By: John Dunn
The All Vol Call in Show
Aside from a tremendous day on the ground for Eric Gray, the Tennessee Volunteers didn't have much to be happy about following a __, to __ loss to (23) Auburn on the road.
The Vols' first drive fell flat as B. Cimaglia missed a 50-yard field goal wide left. However, the Tennessee defense held strong, forcing Auburn into a three-and-out on their opening drive of the game. The Vols found the end zone on their second drive of the game, behind the legs of both Eric Gray and Jarrett Guarantano. Guarantano scampered into the end zone from nine yards out for the first touchdown of the game.
With Auburn driving down field and working into the red zone on their second drive, Tennessee DB B. Thompson came down with a crucial interception in the end zone, allowing the Vols to march down field and tally three more points behind a 47-yard field goal from Cimaglia, bringing the score to 10-0 in favor of Tennessee.
From that point on, it was all Tigers. Bo Nix connected with Anthony Schwartz for a 54-yard touchdown pass to draw Auburn back to within striking distance at 10-7. After halting the Vols' offense yet again, Auburn managed to muster three points on their ensuing drive, knotting the score at 10-10, which remained until halftime.
Auburn opened the second half with possession after deferring the game-opening kickoff. Nix surgically dissected the Tennessee defense through the air in their opening drive. However, a sack and a penalty against the Tigers left them sitting with a 2nd-and-17. Auburn managed eight yards on second down, before converting the first down, and working their way into the red zone.
Auburn continued to methodically march toward the end zone before having to settle for a field goal after Tennessee's defense limited their offensive production on their debut drive of the second half. The score sat with the Tigers leading 13-10 with just under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
For Tennessee's opening drive of the second half they chose to rely on the legs of Eric Gray, and rightfully so. Gray notched three first downs in four runs before Guarantano took a shot downfield to the end zone to Palmer that fell incomplete. Two plays later, Guarantano was intercepted in the end zone by Smoke Monday, and returned for a touchdown, leaving Auburn with a two-possession lead at 20-10.
Tennessee worked down the field for the remainder of the third, as Gray ripped off run-after-run. However, after being forced into a fourth down, the Vols elected to try another field goal. Cimaglia missed his second field goal of the game, this time wide-right, to leave the score at 20-10 in favor of the home team Tigers.
Auburn worked their way down the field into the red zone with 8:20 remaining in the game. They continued to chip away at the game clock as they drove inside the 10-yard line. With 7:14 remaining in the game, Auburn extended their lead to three possessions with a rushing touchdown that brought the score to 27-10.
Tennessee put Harrison Bailey in for the remainder of the game, finally deciding to get the freshman some experience. Gray continued to shine as the Vols worked into the red zone. With 4:07 remaining in the game, Gray busted across the goal-line for his first rushing touchdown of the game. Bailey showed tremendous poise and comfortability while running the Tennessee offense.
The Vols' defense held Auburn to a 50-yard field goal, to allow the Tigers to extend their lead to 30-17 with 1:27 remaining in the game. Tennessee failed to add any more points, as the Tigers secured the 13-point victory.
Eric Gray finished the game with 173 yards and a touchdown.