Tennessee Secures First SEC Win over Mississippi State

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Limiting Mississippi State to a season-low 10 points in the game, Tennessee secured its first SEC victory of the season, winning 20-10 over the Bulldogs Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium.

Mississippi State’s (3-3, 1-2 SEC) Kylin Hill came into today’s game as the SEC leader in rushing yards with 119.2 yards per game. Tennessee (2-4, 1-2 SEC) held Hill to just 13 rushing yards, the lowest amount for the Doak Walker Award Watch List member since Nov. 11, 2017 when he had seven yards against Alabama.

The Vols limited the Bulldogs to just 121 yards on the ground. They came into Saturday’s matchup ranked fourth in the SEC with 206.2 rushing yards per game.

“I think our guys played gaps sound,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “We struck blockers, changed the line of scrimmage a little bit, wrapped-up tackled, gang tackled, and made some plays in space. Going into the game we felt like we needed to make their quarterbacks beat us, not let this guy beat us, and that’s kind of what we tried to do there and I think our kids did a nice job of executing the game plan.”

Senior wide receiver Tyler Byrd secured the Tennessee victory when he caught a pass in the left flat from redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarnatano. After getting two blocks, Byrd sprinted 39-yards down the left sideline and into the south endzone to put Tennessee up 20-10 with 2:35 left in the game.

The Tennessee defense sealed the game on Mississippi State’s final drive of the game sacking Bulldog quarterback Garrett Shrader three times. The Vols’ seven sacks in the game are the most in the Jeremy Pruitt era and mark the most since Tennessee also had seven sacks against UMass on Sept. 23, 2017.

After forcing two consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, freshman quarterback Brian Maurer led the Vols on an 8-play, 60-yard drive to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead. Maurer converted on third down twice, completing passes to Byrd and junior Josh Palmer with both going for 16 yards.

Junior running back Time Jordan capped off the drive with a 15-yard run to put the Vols on the board with 4:56 remaining in the first quarter.

Redshirt junior defensive back Kenneth George Jr. kept the Bulldogs out of the endzone when he intercepted the first pass of his career. George Jr. picked off Tommy Stevens at the Tennessee 9-yd line, returning it back to Vols 34-yard line.

With his third longest field goal of his career, junior kicker Brent Cimaglia helped Tennessee secure a 7-point halftime advantage. Cimaglia knocked in the 48-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Cimaglia’s second field goal of the game at the 6:12 mark of the third quarter pushed it to a 10-point Tennessee lead. The score was set up by a 41-yard pass completion from redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano to freshman wide receiver Ramel Keyton putting the ball at the Mississippi State 13-yard line.

It was the longest first career reception since VFL Josh Dobbs caught a 58-yard touchdown reception against Florida on Sept. 26, 2015.

Cimaglia’s 11 field goals made this season sets his new career high in a season. He currently ranks second all-time in field goal percentage with a mark of 76.3 percent (29-of-38).
Tennessee travels to Tuscaloosa, Alabama next Saturday, as the Vols take on No. 1 Alabama. Kickoff from Bryant–Denny Stadium is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and can also be seen on ESPN.