| Knoxville News Sentinel
Columbia, South Carolina — Tennessee For the first time since 2017, he won the opening game of the Saturday night season and has won a streak of seven consecutive games dating back to last season.
Jarrett Guarantano He threw one of the best passes as he made a 32-yard 4-quarter touchdown with Josh Palmer, which was the decisive score for the 21st Vols to win 31-27 against South Carolina.
“I tickled the fact that we won,” Vols manager Jeremy Pruitt said.
The game was played in front of a crowd of 15,009 socially distant from Williams-Brice Stadium.
Here are five things we learned.
Jarrett Guarantano delivers late.
Guarantano captured every moment, delivering the inconsistent performance characteristic of his career.
He couldn’t connect with an easy throw and sometimes caught the ball too long. He was fired twice.
On the bright side, he made a wise decision and did not intercept. And he did his best to close. Having tied in the mid-fourth quarter in 24 games, Guarantano earned Brandon Johnson a 33-yard gain, after which he threw a beautiful ball at Palmer to score victory.
Guarantano’s final stat line looked good enough. He completed 19 of 31 passes over 259 yards.
A special team gets interrupted and helps Vols.
Freshman Will Albright had a low snap to punter Paxton Brooks, his first college snap, if not a play-denying penalty. Albright’s mulligan was worse. Brooks couldn’t pull off the punt by collecting dribbled snaps and buys Albright a 2-yard finish. South Carolina didn’t convert mistakes into points.
Matthew Salansky replaced Albright and handled long snaps for the rest of the game.
In the third quarter, Pruitt chose to try a 46-yard field goal rather than Brent Cimaglia going 4-1. Cimaglia missed the left. Cimaglia later connected at 27 yards.
Tennessee took a break in the second half of the fourth quarter as a car roaming the legs of South Carolina’s Cam Smith, where Brooks’ punt was blocking play. Vols retrieved the live ball to seal the victory.
Tennessee defense overcomes absence of two players
It seemed like a bad omen when South Carolina, after the SEC’s worst attack last season, marched 75 yards for an opening drive.
Colleen Hill burned the Vols for a 290-yard pass, but the defense limited South Carolina to a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter.
Tennessee seemed to be heading for disaster when Gamecocks got possession after breaking through the punt in Vols’ 41 following 7-0. But Tennessee forced three gradual.
Henry To’o To’o returned interception for a touchdown, Deandre Johnson constantly pressed Hill, and South Carolina’s ground match was a non-factor.
Tennessee played without two important defenses as lineman Darel Middleton and nickelback Shawn Shamburger did not travel to Columbia. Middleton tweeted that he was out for health problems. It’s unclear why you can’t use Shamburger. Tennessee missed him.
Freshman Doneiko Slaughter fills Shamburger’s seat. He took on a tough mission when he played against Shi Smith in the slot. Smith caught 10 passes over 140 yards.
Veteran receiver is burdened
Tennessee has signed a couple of great receivers in their 2020 recruitment classes, and those freshmen will probably have an impact at some point this season.
However, Saturday night was for the veterans. Seniors Josh Palmer, Brandon Johnson and Velus Jones Jr. were Guarantano’s top goals.
Johnson grabbed an amazing one hand in tight coverage to expand Tennessee’s first scoring drive. Palmer’s six receptions for 85 yards led the team.
Offensive line should be more dominant
Even without Cade Mays awaiting a transfer waiver from the SEC, Tennessee’s offensive line had to force their opponents to force their will. It didn’t happen on Saturday.
This is the line that returned all the starters, and Vols likes Ty Chandler and Eric Gray’s running back duo. Nevertheless, Tennessee ran 133 yards with 33 carrys.
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