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Vols fall to Pitt in Johnny Majors Classic 41-34

Josh Heupel suffers his first defeat as Tennessee head coach
Neyland Stadium
Neyland Stadium(Jim Boofer)
Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 11:14 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - As Tennessee and Pitt meet today, they will pay tribute to a shared gridiron icon as the two programs announced the game’s designation as the Johnny Majors Classic, named in honor of the late legendary head coach and player.

Vol Legend immortalized outside Neyland Stadium
Vol Legend immortalized outside Neyland Stadium(Rick Russo)

UT and Pitt will reciprocate the event on Sept. 10, 2022, when they meet at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Majors served two tenures as head coach at Pitt, doing so from 1973-76 and 1993-96. He spent 16 seasons as head coach of his alma mater of Tennessee from 1977-92. In total, he produced a 185-137-10 record in 29 seasons of coaching.

Out for the game with the Panthers are RB Tiyon Evans, who led the Vols in rushing last week. Also inactive will be Center Cooper Mays, who sprained an ankle in the opener against Bowling Green, DE-Byron Young, who’s working through an eligibility issue. Also sitting this week will be defensive lineman LaTrell Bumphus.

Also today in honor of the late great Coach Majors, the Vols are decked out in all orange, A uniform pattern the coach enjoyed seeing his players in from time to time at Neyland Stadium.

Prior to Pitt game at Neyland Stadiumon Sept. 11, 2021
Prior to Pitt game at Neyland Stadiumon Sept. 11, 2021(Jim Boofer)

1ST QUARTER

Vols win the coin toss and defer to the 2nd half giving senior QB Kenny Pickett and the Panthers the ball first. Pitt starts its first drive from the 16 yard line after good coverage by the Vols on the opening kick. Loss of 4 on first play on the first play thanks to a swarming Vols D. UT forces Pitt to three and out and a punt.

Then came the first big play of the game as Christian Charles blocks the Pittsburgh punt setting up the Vols at the Pitt two yard line. Jabari Small takes it in on the next play from the two yard line. PAT is good as Tennessee jumps out to a quick 7-0 lead over the favored Panthers.

UT Running Back
UT Running Back(Jim Boofer)

Pitts second posession would start from their own 3o yard line. Tyler Baron with a vicious tackle for loss on 1st down. Facing a third and 9, QB Kenny Pickett dumps it short and the Vols defense is there to prevent the first down forcing another Panthers punt.

Vols start their 2nd drive from their own 19 yard line and qiuick pass by Joe Milton and subsequent run garnes UT its first 1st down of the game. Vols pick another first on a beautiful quick pass over the middle to tight end Princeton Fant. Then on the next pass Milton goes deep to a wide open jalin Hyatt, but the pass is broken up late. Hyatt is hurt on the play, but would get up and walk off with some assistance.

A holding penalty on the play set the Vols back to 1st and 20. A Joe Milton run got it to 3rd and 8, but an overthrow on a deep ball would force Tennessee’s first punt of the game.

Paxton Brooks with a 54 yard punt sets Pitt way back at their own 2-yard line. The Vols hold Pitt to another three and out forcing a Panthers punt.

Vols next possession starts from their own 49 yard line. Once again, Milton is off the mark on a deep pass. On third and 7 UT picks up the first on a quick pass and then better run by Velus Jones. On 2nd and 10 Milton is way off the mark missing a wid eopen Cedric Tillman. The play would have resulted in a TD. However, on third down, Milton is on the mark on a short on a first down pass to TE Jacob Warren. Milton is sacked on the next play, the first of the day for the Panthers defense. A shovel pass to Jaylen Wright nest three yards. Not enough for the first so on 4th and three UT settles for the FG and Chase McGrath is true from 37 yards giving the Vols a 10-0 lead. Milton is 6-11 for 44 yards so far in the game.

After a poor kick return, Pitt starts its next possession from its own 8 yard line. Pickett runs for 7 yards on first down. The Panthers would pick up their first 1st down of the game on the next play with just over 4 minutes to go in the first quarter. On the next play, the Vols defense comes up with a big play at Theo Jackson sacks Pickett for a 2 yard loss. Pickett picks up another first though on the next play with a 12 yard pass to Lucas Krull. Another pass for 22 yards takes Pitt into UT territory at the 47. A pass interference penalty onTrevon Flowers would take the ball down to the Tennessee 11 yard line. The 1st quarter ends with Pitt facing a 3rd and 1o from the Vols 11 yard line.

2ND QUARTER

Pitt QB Kenny Pickett escapes pressure, rolls out to his right and throws a dart in the endzone to Melquise Stovall. Panthers are on the board trailing UT 10-7 early in the 2nd. Pickett is now 9-10 for 72 yards and one touchdown.

Vols start their first possession of the 2nd quarter at their own 27 yard line. On 2nd and 8, Milton goes deep again, pass is incomplete, but a pass interference call gives UT 15 yards and 1st down at their own 44 yard line. After a loss of three on a run by Jaylen Wright, the Vols call a QB drawn and Joe Milton takes off for 54 yards to the Pitt 5 yard line. A false start and then an unneccesary roughness penalty on Cade Mays would move Tennessee back setting up a 3rd and goal from the 22 yard line. Things go from bad to wors, on the third down play, WR Cedric Tillman is called for offensive pass interference pushing the ball back to the 37 yard line. Yes, making it 3rd and goal from the 37. Vols pick up six yards on a quick out to Jabari Small. Thatsets up a long FG for Chase McGrath, who is true from 48 yards out. The kick gives Tennessee a 13-7 lead with 11:16 to go in the 1st half.

Panthers start their next possession at their own 25 yard line. a 31 yard pass by Kenny Pickett takes Pitt back into UT territory. On 3rd and 5 ant the 39 a quick pass over the middle nets Pitt a first down. Tack on an unneccessary roughness penalty on the take down by Jeremy Banks and it’s 1st down Panthers at the UT 16. Pat narduzzi then dials up the trick play. Pickett throws the backwards pass to WR Jared Wayne who then connects with a wide open Lucas Krull at the goal line. PAT is good as the Panthers take their first lead of the game at 14-13 with 9:25 left in the first half.

More trouble for Tennessee, on the first play of its next possession, Joe Milton is sacked. The ball comes loose and it’s recovered by the defense giving the Panthers a first down at the UT 19 yard line. The Panthers settle for a 37 yard Sam Scarton FG extending their

The Vol defense comes up big however, Pitt loses a yard forcing a 3rd and 12 at the Vols 21. The Panthers settle for a 38 yard Sam Scarton FG and extend their lead to 17-13 midway through the 2nd quarter.

After taking a a hard hit on the fumble in the previous series, the Vols have brought in Hendon Hooker at the quarterback position. The results were not much better. A loss on a run play to start the drive and then a tipped pass on second and incomplete pass on 3rd forced another Vols punt. Panthers take over with great field position again at the UT 48 yard line.

A 3rd down sack by Tyler Baron keeps Pitt out of the endzone forcing a 27yd. Pittsburgh FG. Big stop by a tiring Tennessee defense as the Panthers take a 20-13 lead with 3:53 to go in the 1st half.

So hold the phone! The UT offense comes to life as QB Hendon Hooker hits Jimmy Calloway on a quick pass. The sophomre takes it 44 yards for the TD as Tennessee ties the game at 20 with 2:16 to go in the half.

But back comes Pitt. The Panthers run their 2 minute offense and take it down inside the UT five yard line behind the leadership of quarterback Kenny Pickett and on 3rd and 2 at the Vols three yard line Pickett gives to Vincent Davis and the sophomore takes it right up the middle and in for the TD. The extra point makes it 27-20 Panthers with :19 remaining the first half.

After being shut out in the 1st quarter, the Panthers score 27 points in the 2nd quarter and take a seven point lead into the halftime break. Quarterback Kenny Pickett is 18 of 23 for 200 yards and one touchdown.

3RD QUARTER

Vols get the ball first in the 2nd half with Hendon Hooker at QB. On 3rd 9 Hooker throws a quick swing pass to Jaylen Wright who picks up the first down. But then disaster as Hooker goes back to pass and is stripped of the ball. Pitt recovers the fumble at the UT 27 yard line.

The Vols D comes up big on 3rd and 10 as Jeremy Banks sacks Pickett. Pitt tries a 56yd FG. Theo Jackson returns the short try all the way for a score, but offsetting penalties force a replay of the down. Wow!

So Pitt decides to punt and downs it at the UT one yeard line. S0 after all that the Panthers come out smelling like a rose with the Vols backed up big time.

Vols start next poss. with a nice gain for a 1st down, but lose the yardage on a Javontez Spraggins holding penalty. On 3rd and 18 at the 9, Hooker throws a screen to Jaylen Wright. The RB comes up short of the 1st. A 50 yard Paxton Brooks punt sets up Pitt at their 40.

Kenny Pickett and crew would go back to work and on a 4th and 2, the senior signal caller would scramble out of trouble and pick up the first down. The Panthers move down inside the 5 and on 4th and goal at the 1, extra effort by Pickett on the quarterback sneak gets Pittsburgh into the endzone. The PAT gives Pitt a two touchdown lead at 34-20 with 4:43 to go in the 3rd quarter.

With Hendon Hooker still at quarterback, the Vols try and capitalize on a nice Velus Jones kickoff return. On 3rd and 15 at the Pitt 40, Hendon Hooker scrambles for big yardage and picks up the Tennessee first down. A Pitt holding penalty would take the ball down to the Panthers 8 yard line. Then on the next play, Hooker hits former Farragut High standout Jacob Warren with a perfectly placed ball in the end zone. With the PAT, the Vols pull back to within seven at 34-27. 2:32 left in the 3rd quarter.

The Vols defense forces a Pitt punt and UT takes over at its own 22 yard line. However, a penalty and a sack would force the Vols into a 3rd and 20 at their own 12 yard line. The Panthers, by the way, have 5 sacks on the day for a total of 34 yards. The Vols come up short on 3rd down and are forced to punt as the third quarter comes to an end.

4TH QUARTER

Well seemingly unhappy with the way things were going, Kenny Pickett and crew went back to work driving 75 yards in 6 plays (2:31) capped off by a 5yd TD pass from Pickett to Jordan Addison. The lead back 14 as Pitt goes up 41-27 with 12:22 to go in the game. Vols secondary really exposed on that drive as they have been for much of the game.

Another good kickoff return by Velus Jones sets up the Vols at their own 39 yard line. The Vols answer in a hurry driving down the field. The big play, a 34 yard pass over the middle from Hendon Hooker to Jacob Warren. Then on 3rd and goal at the one, Jaylen Wright powers in and just like that, the Vols are back with a touchdown at 41-34. The drive, 7-plays in 61 yards only taking 2:06 off the clock.

Pitt’s next possession starts at its own 25 and on 3rd and 10 Pickett throws deep and the pass is incomplete after cornerback Warren Burrell pulls the ball away from the receiver at the last second. after the punt, UT starts at its 33.

After a one yard gain on first down, the Vols use their second time out of the half with the play clock winding down. On 2nd and 9, Hooker keeps on the quarterback sweep and picks up 15 yards. to the 50. A false start makes it 1st and 15 at the UT 45. A deep pass over the middle is incomplete, but Pitt is called for pass interference. Hooker would then hit Jimmy calloway for a first down. A late hit would take the ball down to the Pitt 12. Hooker then tries to pick up the first on 3rd and 4 and comes up short by a half a football. The Vols go for it on 4th and one and Jaylen Wright is tackled for a loss as Pittsburgh takes over on downs.

The Vol D rises up again, on 3rd and 11 at the 4, Kenny Pickett’s pass over the middle is knocked away. Vols will get the ball back with another shot to tie the game.

A poor punt sets up UT at the Pitt 34 yard line. On first down Hooker connects with Jacob Warren, but for no gain. On second down, Hooker throws down field, but his pass is intercepted by Panthers safety Brandon Hill who makes a nice return to the Pitt 42 yard line.

The Panthers are able to move the chains and keep the clock rolling. Josh Heupel suffers his first defeat as Tennessee head coach as Pitt wins this first edition of the Johnny Majors Classic by a score of 41-34.

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