Nearly month ago, the No. 21 Auburn Tigers had playoff aspirations. The Tigers were ranked in the top 10 and had already had an impressive resume-boosting win over Pac 12 favorite Washington to open the season.
Two conference losses to LSU and Mississippi State and a pair of lackluster wins, the Auburn Tigers all of the sudden didn’t look as intimidating to a Tennessee that hadn’t won an SEC game in 10 tries.
Coming off of a bye-week, the Vols took full advantage of the vulnerable Tigers as they traveled to the Plains and came away with not only their first conference win in nearly two years, but their first win over a ranked opponent since beating then-No. 25 Georgia in 2016 with a 30-24 decision at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The game started about as many had expected with Auburn-who has struggled in the run game all season-struck first with a touchdown drive, capped off by a 1-yard run from Chandler Cox.
Trailing 10-3 in the early-going of the second quarter, Jarrett Gurantano hit Ty Chandler for a 42-yard touchdown to tie the game. The pass was the first of two touchdowns Gurantano tossed on the day.
Just before the half, Auburn reclaimed the lead thanks to a Jarrett Stidham touchdown pass to Anthony Schwartz good for 76-yards, but Tennessee’s Brent Cimaglia put the Vols within four, 17-13 with a 45-yard field goal as time expired.
The second half belonged to Tennessee, which is something that hasn’t been said in an SEC game in quite sometime. With 3:25 left in the third quarter, Guarantano took a brutal hit on a 25-yard pass that was hauled in by Jauan Jennings in the end zone to give the Vols their first lead of the game.
On the ensuing drive, things went from bad to worse for the struggling Auburn offense, as Tennessee strip-sacked Stidham inside the 10-yard line. The ball was picked up by Alonte Taylor who walked into the endzone to give the Vols a 10-point lead, 27-17.
Late in the fourth quarter, Tennessee was knocking on the door of putting the game away in the red zone, but Auburn defense held firm, forcing a field goal to make it a 30-17 game.
For the first time since the second quarter, Stidham lead the Tigers on a touchdown drive in the form of Stidham’s second touchdown toss to Seth Williams to pull within six, 30-24 with :37 seconds left in regulation.
The following onside kick landed safely into the hands of Jennings to preserve the upset for Tennessee. Needless to say, the win is Jeremy Pruitt’s most impressive in his inaugural season, especially after the Vols impressive performance versus Georgia two weeks ago.
Tennessee’s offense mustered 396 yards of total offense as Guranatno threw for 328 yards and 2 scores. On the ground, Chandler lead the rushing attack with 50 yards on 16 carries
Auburn managed to post nearly 450 yards of offense with 126 rushing and 322 through the air. The most telling stat could be found in the turnover category, as Auburn had 3 to Tennessee’s 0. Two of the turnovers came off of interceptions thrown by Stidham.
The Vols cap off their long-awaited three-game gauntlet in Knoxville next Saturday as they get set to face No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) at 3:30 pm.
Auburn, who has fallen to 1-3 with Saturday’s loss will look to bounce back in Oxford versus Ole Miss with a kickoff slated for noon.