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Game Balls for the Vols: UAB Edition

(Photo via Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics)

In the Vols’ 96th homecoming game in school history, Jeremy Pruitt’s second-year team defeated UAB 30-7 to improve to 4-5 on the season. Tennessee is now 74-19-3 in homecoming games, and this year’s squad is just two wins away from a bowl game.

Here’s who earned a game ball for their play in Tennessee’s victory over the Blazers on Saturday night.

Bryce Thompson, CB

Apparently Bryce Thompson’s hands are magnets. The sophomore corner totaled a career-high three interceptions on Saturday, helping the Tennessee defense force four turnovers.

The Vols scored each time Thompson picked off a pass. His first interception set up UT’s first score of the game, a 36-yard field goal from Brent Cimaglia. Thompson’s second pick of the night came in the second quarter, which gave him the first multi-interception game of his career, and led to another Cimaglia field goal.

“He really just done what he’s supposed to do,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said of Thompson following the win. “One play he cuts, splits the zone, the quarterback stares down, they run four verticals, he (the UAB QB) made a poor throw, (Thompson) breaks on the ball. One time, they run a deep comeback. We’re playing two-man. The ball really shouldn’t be thrown out there. It was, he made them pay there. The last time, he was playing the money position.”

As for his third interception of the game, it also came in the second quarter. Tennessee’s second touchdown of the game came after Thompson intercepted his third pass, and that extended the Vols’ lead to 23-0. With his third pick, Thompson became the first Vol since Deon Grant to record three interceptions in a game. Grant did so against Auburn in 1999 when, like Thompson, all three of Grant’s interceptions came in the first half.

“It was perfect play-calling,” Thompson said. “I’m feeling more confident. I like the way our defense is playing, they’re making it extremely easy for me to come back because everybody else is playing so well, so they can pick up from our mistakes, and I have no doubt in them at all.”

Thompson’s three interceptions tied the school record for most in a single game by one player. He became the ninth player in program history to intercept three passes in a game. Only one other SEC player has intercepted three passes this season.

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Jauan Jennings, WR

Another week, another big-time performance from the senior wide receiver. Along with five catches for 70 yards, Jennings recorded his first career rushing touchdown on a two-yard run with 3:08 remaining in the first half. The score put Tennessee up on the Blazers 23-0.

With 70 receiving yards, Jennings moved to ninth all-time in program history with 1,906 career receiving yards, passing Carl Pickens. He is just 19 yards away from passing Larry Seivers for eighth all-time.

Brent Cimaglia, K

Cimaglia once again showed up on Saturday. The junior kicker was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals for the night, and that included a career-long kick from 53 yards out. Cimaglia’s 53-yard field goal was his third and final make of the night.

His second field goal was a 48-yarder, his sixth make of 40 yards or longer this season. Cimaglia’s first field goal on the night was from 36 yards out.

“The thing I like about him is I think he could play middle linebacker, too,” Pruitt said. “I like that about him. If he misses one, he jumps up there and he wants to hit another one. He doesn’t go hide somewhere. He wants to get up there and do it again. So I think he has a really good makeup about him. He’s a great competitor.”

As for his 53-yarder, that kick tied the eighth-longest make in school history. It was the longest field goal for Tennessee since Jeff Hall made a 53-yard field goal against Oklahoma State in 1995.

After going 3-for-3 against UAB, Cimaglia is now in first place in program history in career field goal percentage at 78.26 percent. He is a perfect 2-for-2 from 50-plus yards this season and is now 36-of-46 overall during his career.

Ty Chandler, RB

After a stretch of play where Chandler struggled to get much going, the junior running back has stepped up over the last two weeks. Against UAB, Chandler rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and his longest run of the day went for 31 yards.

Chandler also had two catches for 14 yards.

Eric Gray, RB

While Gray only rushed for eight yards on eight carries, we’re tipping our hat to the freshman for scoring his first career touchdown on a 13-yard reception from Jarrett Guarantano.

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