Homecoming delight… Vols roll past Blazers for fourth victory of season, 30-7

Published 12:57 am Tuesday, November 5, 2019

KNOXVILLE – Having Miss Tennessee, a bagpipe band playing Amazing Grace, the alumni band, Lee Greenwood singing, a Tennessee Walking horse and a Vol victory – what more could a crowd of 85,791 want out of 2019 Homecoming festivities at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
Behind three Brent Cimaglia field goals and a defensive front that allowed only 63 yards rushing to Blazers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the Tennessee Vols recorded their fourth win of the season as they continued their push to finish out 2019 strong and earn a bowl bid in the process.
Tennessee got rolling early thanks in part to Bryce Thompson who picked off UAB quarterback Tyler Johnston III three times in the first half.
The first possession after Thompson’s initial pick resulted in a 36-yard Cimaglia field goal with 13:27 on the first quarter scoreboard.
Thompson snagged a total of three interceptions in the first half that allowed Tennessee the opportunity to build their lead.
“It obviously hurt that he wasn’t practicing, but he’s improving,” Coach Jeremy Pruitt said of Thompson’s effort since returning from some early season dog house issues with Pruitt do to a social media post.
“He’s been banged up for a couple of weeks now, he’s a tough kid that really wants to play and likes to play. He’s continued to improve and he should.”
Cimaglia booted field goals of 48 yards and 53 yards in the first half to go along with Ty Chandler’s 11 yard run with 11:36 left in the first half and a Jauan Jennings two-yard wildcat blast just 3:08 before the half staking Tennessee to a 23-0 lead at intermission.
The Vols added another score with 1:08 left in the third quarter when quarterback Jarrett Guarantano found Eric Gray for a 13-yard scoring toss to push the UT advantage to 30-0.
Tennessee lost their shutout bid with just 2:35 remaining in the game when backup quarterback Dylan Hopkins found Lucious Stanley on a 15-yard scoring reception to give the game it’s final score.
Continuing to improve on both sides of the ball, the Vols rang up 302 yards of total offense against a Blazer team that ranked fifth nationally coming into the contest in total defense.
UAB had not allowed a team to score more than 20 points all season and the Blazers were ranked second nationally in fumble recoveries, fifth in tackles for loss per game, and eighth in rushing defense (88.3).
Tennessee finished the contest with 121 yards rushing on 39 attempts with Chandler recording 85 of those yards. Guarantano completed 13-of-21 passes for 147 yards and the one score while J.T. Shrout was 3-of-6  for 34 yards in a limited role after starting the game under center.
Defensively, Nigel Warrior led the Vols with six stops while Henry To’o To’o added five. Solon Page III and Aubrey Solomon was credited with four stops with Solomon recording a sack as well.
UAB logged 237 yards of total offense with 174 of those coming via passing.
“That was a really hard-fought game,” said Pruitt afterward. “Those guys, especially on defense, played an outstanding game.
“You can see why they are one of the top-ranked defenses in the country. They have good players and good schemes. They did a good job executing.
“I thought, defensively, we really changed the game with the turnovers in the first half.”
UAB head coach Bill Clark said the early turnovers were definitely a big turning point of the contest.
“Obviously, it’s always tough when you turn the ball over four times,” Clark said in his postgame press conference. “I thought the defense really played well in spite of some turnovers.
“There were some times where we had our chances to hold them out, so it obviously was not all on the offense. I was really proud that our guys kept their heads up and kept fighting.”
The Volunteers look to keep on improving and winning as they head to Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in SEC play.

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