This Week in UT Sports History is a weekly series written by RTI columnist Lexie Little
“We kind of stopped ourselves.” Jeremy Pruitt best summed up now-unranked Tennessee’s 34-7 loss in describing an offensive drive in the first half. Costly turnovers and weariness handed Kentucky its first win in Neyland Stadium since 1984 as the Wildcat defense swarmed. Kentucky had not beaten a ranked Tennessee team since 1959.
Three quarterbacks entered for the Vols in the matchup. Following an 85-yard pick six from Guarantano to Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis, redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout threw an interception on his first pass attempt. Guarantano reentered, and Tennessee opted to push the ground game. Eric Gray rushed for 128 yards, a season high. Freshman Harrison Bailey made his debut in relief of Jarrett Guarantano in the fourth, completing a 24-yard pass on the drive before the Vols turned it over on downs.
The football loss marked one of three to the border state school this weekend. The Lady Vol volleyball team dropped its first match to No. 3 Kentucky in Lexington on Friday in three sets (15-25, 16-25, 15-25) before losing again Saturday night (26-24, 23-25, 22-25, 13-25). The Lady Vols take on Georgia on Oct. 28 and 29 in Knoxville as they seek their first win in the delayed 2020 season.
As the 2020 Vol teams look to sort out offensive and defensive challenges in spite of greater opposition posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocky Top Insider takes a look back at obstacles this week in UT sports history:
Oct. 23, 1915
The box score looked like a mistake. A three-digit shutout win enraptured Knoxville. The Vols defeated Cumberland 101-0 at Wait Field the week after an 80-0 win against Centre. The weirdest part: this game marked the Vols’ second 101-0 win of the season. Tennessee had beaten Carson-Newman by the same score one month prior.
The 1914 Vols finished the season 9-0 as Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association champions under head coach Zora Clevenger. The win against Carson-Newman and a 21-0 win against Tusculum extended the Vols’ win streak to 12, dating back to Nov. 27, 1913. Then, Clemson snapped the streak. Clemson won 3-0, shocking the rollicking Volunteers. Tennessee came roaring back in consecutive shutouts, scoring a combined 181 points.
The 1915 season remains an enigma. With two 101-0 wins, few might believe the Vols finished that season 4-4 (0-4 SIAA), especially after an undefeated season one year prior. Clevenger, in his fifth year, decided to leave the program prior to 1916. New head coach John R. Bender would lead the 1916 team to an 8-0-1 (6-0-1 SIAA) record in Tennessee’s last varsity season until 1919. World War I inhibited Tennessee from fielding a varsity team in 1917 and 1918. The 1916 team picked up SIAA co-champion honors with Georgia Tech.
Oct. 20, 1951
Tennessee earned a conference co-title with Georgia Tech again 35 years later. But along the way, the Vols had to face Alabama. More than 40,000 fans congregated at Legion Field for the Third Saturday in October. At the 2:00 p.m. kick, 80 degree temperatures warmed an already heated rivalry. Head coach Robert Neyland walked the sideline in his 20th season at the helm for Tennessee. The Vols, who entered the season ranked No. 1, entered the game against Alabama with an undefeated 3-0 record. The Tide had struggled early on in the season, entering at 1-3 despite an 89-0 win against Delta State. Coming of a national championship 11-1 season with a win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl, Tennessee looked to repeat.
The Vols defeated Alabama 27-13 in a televised matchup, the Tide’s first game televised on a major broadcast network. Bama got on the board first with a touchdown in the first quarter, leading Tennessee 7-0. The Vols put up seven in the second and third quarters, respectively, before capping the game with 13 points in the fourth, including a 35-yard touchdown run from Hank Lauricella. The Vols finished the game with 391 yards of total offense to Alabama’s 252 with 268 yards on the ground. Lauricella rushed for 108 of those yards.
The game marked Tennessee’s first win at Legion Field since 1940. Lauricella’s performance contributed to his first-team All-America honors and eventual 881 yards rushing on the season, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Dubbed “Mr. Everything,” Lauricella did it all that season: completing 24-of-51 passes for 352 yards, returned six kickoffs for 116 yards and punted for 1,494 yards. He finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.
Tennessee finished the 1951 season consensus national champions with a record of 10-1 (5-0 SEC). The Vols earned co-SEC champion honors alongside No. 5 Georgia Tech.
The 2020 Vols face Alabama this Saturday, Oct. 24, as the CBS SEC game of the week. Kickoff at Neyland Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 22, 2004
Before the Lady Vol volleyball team chose Thompson-Boling Arena for home court play, Tennessee played at Stokely Athletics Center. When the Florida Gators travelled to Knoxville in 2004, the facility set a record for volleyball crowd with 1,337 in attendance. The women in orange and white rode a nine-game win streak with an 18-1 record on the season before the rivals travelled north. Florida, ranked No. 8 in the country, looked to end that streak. Unfortunately, the record crowd watched as the Gators did just that. No. 17 Tennessee lost in four sets, 1-3.
Tennessee followed the loss with another streak of nine wins before again facing off with Florida, this time ranked No. 7. The Lady Vols exacted revenge in the Swamp, emerging as victors in a close five sets, 3-2. The wins in Gainesville didn’t stop there. Tennessee beat Auburn, Arkansas and No. 10 Florida in the SEC Tournament to claim the conference tournament title. The Lady Vols finished the season 32-3 (15-1 SEC) with a .914 win percentage.
The 2020 Lady Vols look to get back on track against Georgia on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. The matchup at Thompson-Boling will be televised on ESPNU.