5 Observations: Kentucky 29, Tennessee 26

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    For only the second time in three-plus decades, the Vols lost to Kentucky in football. And this loss has brought Tennessee to one of its lowest points in recent memory.

    Jarrett Guarantano heaved a Hail Mary as time expired, connected with Jeff George, and the Vols suddenly had a tiny breath of life. But George was brought down just shy of the end zone, and Kentucky gave Tennessee a 29-26 loss.

    That loss was the Vols’ fourth-straight loss on the season, and it assured the Vols of a losing season in conference play.

    Here’s the five biggest things we saw from Tennessee’s stunning 29-26 loss to Kentucky.

    Costly Penalties 

    Tennessee can point to many reasons why they didn’t win this game. But one of the biggest reasons is because of penalties.

    The Vols had several huge, costly penalties in this game. One penalty called back an 80-yard Ty Chandler touchdown in the first quarter. Another pushed the Vols off the one-yard line, and that drive resulted in a field goal instead of a touchdown for Tennessee. Another penalty kept Kentucky’s drive alive on third down, and the Wildcats would score a touchdown on that drive.

    Tennessee finished with nine penalties for 54 yards in the game. And far too many of them were back-breaking.

    Penalties weren’t the only reason the Vols lost this game, but they were definitely part of it. Tennessee has no one to blame but themselves for this loss.

    Vols Can’t Take Advantage

    Kentucky fumbled the ball four times. Tennessee got into the red zone six times. Yet The Vols still lost this game.

    The Vols managed to score just nine points off those four Kentucky turnovers, and Tennessee scored just two touchdowns in their six red zone trips. They had to settle for four field goals on their other possessions.

    Time and time again, the Vols wasted opportunities in this game. They out-gained Kentucky, had a plus-four turnover margin, and they picked up a whopping 27 first downs. Yet they managed to score just 26 points, and they let Kentucky find a way to win this game.

    The Drought is Over

    For the first time in a month, Tennessee’s offense actually looked fairly competent. But the same inconsistencies and inefficiencies reared their head in this one, and it cost them.

    But Tennessee did manage to end their touchdown drought at 15 quarters in this game. In fact, the Vols scored two touchdowns in the second quarter of this game. But their inability to score a third is what ruined the game for them.

    Jarrett Guarantano tossed the ball for 242 yards on 18-of-23 passing, and Ty Chandler amassed 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 22 carries. Tennessee totaled 445 yards on offense and averaged 5.7 yards per play. But the offensive line let Guarantano get sacked seven times, and the Vols were just 6-of-16 on third down.

    The offense looked better, but it still wasn’t good enough.

    Beating a Dead Horse

    For weeks, the talk around Tennessee has been when Butch Jones will be fired. And that talk is only going to sky-rocket after this historic loss to Kentucky.

    The discussion around Jones has been all about “when” not “if” he would be fired. And now that he was the head coach that lost to Kentucky for only the second time since 1984, expect fans to be blood thirsty.

    Is This Rock Bottom?

    The last time Tennessee lost to Kentucky, Vol fans were miserable. This time, they’re miserable and furious.

    Tennessee is now 0-5 in SEC play, has looked largely inept on offense for most of the season, and they’re on a four-game losing streak after going 0-for-October. And they just lost to Kentucky. In football.

    The Vols haven’t seen many lows that would equal where the program is right now. And Vol fans everywhere are hanging their heads in shame.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.