Tennessee is Bowl eligible with close win at Missouri
You can see Jeremy Pruitt's entire postgame press conference on this page.
A career performance from junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and 100-yard receiving outputs from three different receivers pushed Tennessee past Missouri 24-20 for its fourth consecutive win and its fifth win in six games on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Vols improved to 6-5 on the year and 4-3 in SEC play, becoming bowl eligible, while Missouri fell to 5-6 and 2-5 in conference play.
Guarantano put together an impressive display through the air, completing 23-of-40 passes for a career-high 415 yards and two touchdowns. Guarantano's performance moved him into eighth all-time in career passing yards, surpassing 1998 National Champion quarterback Tee Martin. Guarantano sits with 4,721 career passing yards.
This was Guarantano's first career 400+ yard performance and the first 400+ yard passing output for any Vol since Tyler Bray set the program record with 530 passing yards in 2012, when current offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was in his first stint with the Vols.
Tennessee closed tonight's contest with seniors Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway and junior Josh Palmer each surpassing 100 receiving yards. This is the first time UT has had three receivers surpass the century mark in a single game.
Palmer finished the night with a career and game-high 124 yards on six receptions.
Callaway and Jennings each finished with one touchdown and 110 and 115 yards respectively. Both Callaway and Jennings moved into the top-10 in program history for career 100-yard performances. This was Jennings' sixth career 100-yard output and the fifth for Callaway.
Jennings' 115 yards moved him into sixth all-time in career receiving yards with 2,070 yards, passing Denarious Moore and Tim McGee.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Daniel Bituli impressed with a game-high 12 total tackles and a crucial sack early in the fourth quarter to force a Missouri three-and-out.
The Tigers opened the scoring with a 30-yard field goal from Tucker McCann, following an 11 play, 57-yard drive that took 4:28 off the clock, giving them an early 3-0 advantage.
The Vols responded with a six play, 58-yard drive, yet Brent Cimaglia's 34-yard field goal was blocked, holding the score at 3-0 in favor of the Tigers.
After holding the Missouri offense, UT drove 86 yards in nine plays, with freshman linebacker Quavaris Crouch punching it in on offense from a yard out for his first career touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a 51-yard pitch and catch from Guarantano to Jennings, tying Jennings' season-long reception.
Crouch's touchdown was the first by a UT defensive player, since AJ Johnson did so in 2012.
On Missouri's ensuing drive, the Tigers strung together 75 yards in nine plays, with quarterback Kelly Bryant connecting with Tyler Badie from nine yards out, to give Missouri its second lead of the evening at 10-7.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, Tennessee retook the lead following a 16-yard touchdown connection from Guarantano to Jennings. Jennings corralled the ball at the five-yard line, before breaking a series of tackles on his way to the end zone.
Earlier in the same drive, Guarantano found Jennings for 20 yards on a key conversion on 3rd-and-18 to keep the drive alive.
After the UT defense forced a Missouri punt, Guarantano and the offense took advantage of the final 38 seconds of the half, driving 66 yards in five plays, before Cimaglia connected on a 27-yard field goal to increase the Tennessee lead to 17-10 heading into the halftime break.
Guarantano found Palmer twice on that drive for 44 yards to help put the Vols in position to score.
Out of the locker room, Missouri opened the second half scoring with an eight-play 55-yard drive, caped off by a second touchdown grab by Badie, this time coming from receiver Micah Wilson who acted as the Tigers quarterback, tying the contest at 17 apiece.
After trading punts, the Tennessee offense went back to work as Guarantano found Callaway twice through the air for 48 yards. The first connection between the two, put the Vols just outside the red zone, while the second went for a 17-yard touchdown as Callaway pulled in an impressive grab with a Missouri defender draped over him, giving Tennessee a 24-17 lead late in the third quarter.
Following a Tennessee fumble in the early stages of the final quarter, Missouri cut into the UT lead after McCann converted his second field goal of the night, this time from 33 yards, making the score 24-20 still in favor of the Vols.
Holding a slim four point advantage, the Tennessee defense forced a late three-and-out, while the offense moved the chains twice to run out the clock, cementing the 24-20 scoreline.
Up next, Tennessee returns home for senior day when it takes on Vanderbilt inside Neyland Stadium, next Saturday for a 4 p.m. ET kickoff on SEC Network. UT's class of 14 seniors will be honored on the field prior to kickoff.
Jarrett Guarantano gets the start for the Vols.
Tennessee is back in their Orange Pants.
Tennessee loses the toss and will get the ball first.
First play of the game a JG miss, but Pass Interference against Missouri gives TN 15 yards and an automatic first down.
Tennessee goes 3 and out with their first possession.
8:54 in the 1st ... Missouri nails a 30 yard field goal to put the Tigers up 3-0 over Tennessee
Tennessee's 34 yard field goal is blocked. No score for the Vols. Missouri still leads with 6:21 to go in the first.
End of the 1st quarter 3-0 Missouri over Tennessee. But Tennessee is threatening after a 51 yard pass completion from JG to J. Jennings.
12:49 in the 2nd ... Tennessee takes the lead with a 1 yard run for a Vols Touchdown. Caps a 9 play 86 yard drive. Tennessee goes up over Missouri 7-3.
9:31 in the 2nd ... Missouri scores to make it 10-7 over the Vols.
1:35 to go in the 2nd ... A 16 yard JG pass to J. Jennings and a powerful run afterwards gets TN in the end zone for a Vols TD.
It's 14-10 TN over Missouri.
Tennessee goes up 17-10 at the half with a hurry-up offense field goal.
The third quarter is underway. Missouri will get the ball 1st.
12:10 in the 3rd, Brent Cimaglia ruffed up after a blocked/missed 48 yard field goal attempt. This was Cimaglia 2nd miss/block of the night.
Tennessee retains the lead 17-10 over Missouri.
Missouri 15 yard TD pass with 8:40 to go in the 3rd. It's now a tie game, 17-17.
:21 to go in the 3rd, a 17 yard strike from JG to M. Callaway in the end zone, TD Tennessee. Two flags against Missouri make it 24-17 Tennessee.
End of the 3rd. Tennessee leads Missouri, 24-17.
12:29 in the 4th, TN's Tim Jordan fumbles the ball, recovered by Missouri on roughly their 40 yard line.
The TN fumble leads to a Missouri 33 yard field goal with 8:27 left to go in the 4th quarter. But Tennessee still has the narrow lead, 24-20.
Tennessee holds on for the win ... 24-20 over Missouri.