Heupel's Heroes down Stoops' Troops 45-42 in Lexington
By: John Dunn
The All Vol Call in Show
The Tennessee Volunteers traveled to Lexington on Saturday night, looking to avoid a three-game losing streak against ranked SEC opponents. The game was back-and-forth throughout its duration,
Tennessee got things started on the first play of the game, with Hendon Hooker connecting with JaVonta Payton for a 75-yard touchdown up the left sideline for a touchdown. From there, the race was on as the two teams traded blows, matching one another score-for-score, giving way to a multitude of lead changes.
Tennessee took an early lead, going up 7-0 on the first play of the game. The Wildcats matched the Vols with a 14-play 75-yard touchdown drive that chewed up nearly nine minutes of game time, bringing the score to 7-7.
On their ensuing possession, Tennessee scored in three plays, going 75-yards in 26-seconds to regain the lead, 14-7. Kentucky's next drive was halted as they settled for, and missed, a 5-yard field goal. On Tennessee's ensuing possession, Hooker connected with Jalin Hyatt for a 41-yard gain down the sideline. However, on the following play, a botched hand-off between Hooker and running back Jabari Small was fumbled with the Cats recovering the fumble.
Kentucky capitalized on the turnover, going 71-yards in six plays, tying the game at 14-14. After forcing Tennessee into a three-and-out, the Cats scored again, taking their first lead of the game on an 11-play 68-yard drive, 21-14 with limited time remaining before the half.
Tennessee scored another touchdown on their next drive, tying the game at 21-21. After stopping the Cats on the following drive, Tennessee hurried down field, setting up Chase McGrath for a 43-yard go-ahead field goal as time expired on the first half, leaving Tennessee with a slim 24-21 lead at the half.
Kentucky got the ball to start the third quarter after deferring the opening kick-off to Tennessee.
On their opening possession of the second half, the Cats marched down the field, going 75-yards in 10 plays to regain the lead, 28-24. On the ensuing Tennessee possession, the Vols maintained the role of striking fast, going 49-yards in three plays, taking a 31-28 lead.
Needing a stop on defense, Tennessee got what they needed as Alontae Taylor intercepted Will Levis for a pick-six, giving the Vols a 10-point cushion at 38-28. However, on the following possession, Kentucky chipped away at the Tennessee lead with a touchdown pass from Levis to Wan'Dale Robinson, drawing back to within striking distance at 38-35.
On each team's next drive, they were both stopped on fourth-and-long for a turnover on downs. Regaining possession, and leading by three points, Tennessee worked their way down field with two massive receptions from Cedric Tillman, one of which was a touchdown, extending the Tennessee lead to 45-35
Kentucky marched down field, answering the Tennessee score, drawing back to within three points, 45-42 with just over 10-minutes remaining in the game. With a chance to extend their lead to six points, the Vols missed a field goal, allowing the Cats to take back over, trailing by only three points.
After forcing Kentucky into a 4th and 24, Tennessee gave too much cushion to the Cats' receivers, allowing them to convert the first down deep in Tennessee territory. Trailing 45-42 with 36-seconds remaining, on a 4th and 10, Tennessee's defense held, allowing them to post a 45-42 victory.
It is the first on-the-road ranked SEC win for Josh Heupel.