Game Balls for the Vols: Bowl Game Edition

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    Photo by Caitlyn Jordan/RTI

    Tennessee recovered from a 22-9 deficit on Thursday night in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl to defeat Indiana 23-22. Sparked by a miraculous onside kick recovery, the Vols picked up the victory to finish the season with eight wins after starting the year 1-4.

    The Vols scored two touchdowns in 30 seconds to overcome the 13-point deficit. FBS teams had been 0-471 when trailing by 13 or more points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter this season prior to the game. Tennessee became the first team this season to get a win in that situation.

    Following the win, Tennessee is now 29-24 all-time in bowl games and is ranked sixth in bowl wins across all FBS teams. The Vols are now 5-2 all-time in the Gator Bowl.

    Here’s the group of Vols that earned a game ball following Tennessee’s Gator Bowl win over the Indiana Hoosiers to finish the season 8-5.

    Eric Gray, RB

    Tennessee freshman running back Eric Gray once again broke out on Thursday evening in the Vols’ bowl win over the Hoosiers. After rushing for a true freshman record 246 yards in the season finale against Vanderbilt, Gray rushed for a game-high 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Indiana.

    Gray earned TaxSlayer Gator Bowl MVP Honors for his performance. He’s the first Tennessee freshman to win a bowl game MVP award since Chuck Webb won MVP at the 1990 Cotton Bowl.

    Not only was Gray productive on the ground, but he recovered Tennessee’s first onside kick since 2011 that proved to be the difference in the game. Three plays later, he rushed for a 16-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

    “It’s something I dreamed about as a kid, playing college football, playing in a bowl game,” Gray said following the game. “Being MVP has been amazing. I just want to say all glory to God.”

    Gray also caught two passes for 34 yards, giving him over 100 yards of total offense.

    Paxton Brooks, P

    Brooks only punted the ball for 37.8 yards per punt, but the sophomore punter made up for it by his successful onside kick late in the fourth quarter to swing the game in Tennessee’s favor.

    The successful onside kick was the first for Tennessee since the Vols recovered one against Butch Jones’ Cincinnati Bearcats on Sept. 10, 2011.

    Brent Cimaglia, K

    Cimaglia was successful on all three field goal attempts against Indiana in the win to finish an incredible junior campaign where he made 23 of his 27 attempted field goals. His 23 field goals are the third-most in a season in program history and are the most in 34 years.

    Against the Hoosiers, Cimaglia was successful from 23, 32, and 43 yards out. The three made field goals were the most ever by a Vol in the program’s 53-game bowl history.

    Cimaglia will enter his senior season as the second-most accurate kicker in Tennessee history, having made 41 of 53 career field goal attempts (.774).

    Shawn Shamburger, DB

    Shamburger played his best game as a Vol against the Hoosiers. The junior capped his 2019 campaign with an interception, a sack, and a tackle for a loss. He played a huge role in holding an Indiana passing attack that had been averaging over 300 yards per game to just 227 yards.

    The junior’s pick in the first half marked his first interception of his collegiate career. Shamburger enjoyed a breakout junior campaign, finishing the season with 47 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, and two pass breakups as the Vols’ starting STAR defensive back.

    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.