Tennessee ended 2019 on a five-game winning streak, and they welcomed in the new year with a thrilling victory in comeback fashion.
The Vols continued their winning ways in the year 2020 with a 23-22 win over Indiana in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, capping off their improbable season with an equally improbable victory. Tennessee trailed the Hoosiers 22-9 halfway through the fourth quarter, and the Vols’ offense had come away with six points in three red zone trips to that point.
But after a 10-play drive that was punctuated by a Quavaris Crouch one-yard touchdown run, Tennessee had life.
That touchdown brought the score to 22-16, then head coach Jeremy Pruitt made a risky decision to try an onside kick with 4:21 to go in the game, and it paid off. The Vols executed the surprise onside kick to perfection, and freshman running back Eric Gray recovered the ball just as it passed the 10-yard mark.
It only took Tennessee 28 seconds of game time to take back the lead, the first time they held the lead since it was 6-3 in the second quarter. The Vols moved 54 yards in 28 seconds, and Eric Gray scored the game-winning touchdown on a 16-yard scamper into the end zone.
Indiana missed an extra point on a touchdown in the third quarter, and that missed PAT loomed large as Vol kicker Brent Cimaglia lined up for the Vols’ extra point attempt.
Cimaglia’s kick was a no doubter.
Tennessee’s defense did their part twice in the final three-plus minutes, holding Indiana’s offense off the scoreboard and sealing away a 23-22 victory.
After the game, Tennessee’s players and coaches were fired up from the victory. The Tennessee football social media team posted videos across all their platforms of post-game celebrations from players, and they posted a clip of Jeremy Pruitt’s post-game speech to the team.
During his post-game talk, Pruitt made an interesting comment, calling 2020 and the start of the new decade “the decade of the Vols.”
“This decade is going to be the decade of the Vols,” Pruitt said. “The first one was a hell of a game, I can tell you that. You found a damn way. You found a way.”
Tennessee is officially 1-0 in 2020, and they’ve now won six-straight games and seven of their last eight contests. The Vols have one of the longest active winning streaks in college football, and it’s the longest winning streak UT as a program has been on since 2015-16 when Tennessee ended the 2015 season on a six-game winning streak and began the 2016 season with five-straight wins.
The Vols won’t play another game in 2020 in football for several months. But they’ve started out the new decade in style.