LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Jarrett Guarantano threw two third-quarter touchdown passes for the lead that Tennessee’s defense preserved with a late goal-line stand, helping the Volunteers rally past Kentucky 17-13 on Saturday night.
Trailing 13-3 at halftime, the Volunteers (5-5, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) replaced Brian Maurer with Jarrett Guarantano at quarterback to start the third and quickly got two TD drives totaling just 6 ½ minutes. Officials initially ruled Josh Palmer out of bounds on his 12-yard catch from Guarantano before replay review showed he got a foot down inbounds on the right sideline on the go-ahead score. His TD followed Marquez Callaway’s fine 17-yard TD grab that capped a 75-yard drive covering just 2:57.
The Wildcats got a final chance after Marquan McCall recovered Ty Chandler’s fumble at the Tennessee 45 and drove to the 1. But quarterback Lynn Bowden was tackled on fourth-and-goal at the 2 with 1:17 remaining, the last of Kentucky’s three failed fourth-down attempts after halftime.
Tennessee was outgained 327-296 but topped Kentucky 160-129 in the second half to win for the fourth time in five games and reach .500. The Vols are within a win of bowl eligibility after missing the postseason last year.
Gaurantano completed 7 of 8 passes for 115 yards and rushed six times for 30 yards. Maurer was 7 of 16 for 98 yards.
The Wildcats (4-5, 2-5 SEC) took the initial lead with touchdown runs by Asim Rose and Kavosiey Smoke of 2 and 22 yards respectively but were shut out after that.
Tennessee: That 1-4 start is now a distant memory. Down but not out, the Volunteers found a spark after halftime with the veteran Guarantano. Their defense was even more impressive in bottling up Kentucky for the final three quarters and making three fourth-down stops.
Kentucky: After opening the game with a clock-chewing TD drive of 10:18 and getting another TD off a blocked punt, the Wildcats stalled offensively. They also failed to slow the Vols, falling under .500 and adding urgency to their quest for bowl eligibility.
Tennessee visits Missouri on Nov. 23 after a bye.
Kentucky visits Vanderbilt on Nov. 16.