Tennessee fell to No. 5 Texas A&M 31-13 on Saturday afternoon to conclude the regular season 3-7. The loss on senior day is the seventh loss in the last eight games for the Vols after beginning the season 2-0.
True freshman quarterback Harrison Bailey made his third career start and sparked the Vols right away. After a defensive holding penalty against Texas A&M that negated a sack on the first play of the game, Bailey marched the offense right down the field and threw a 33-yard passing touchdown to Jacob Warren to give the Vols an early 7-0 lead.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Texas A&M marched right down the field and scored to tie the game on a 5-yard rushing touchdown from Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond. It was the first of two dominant scoring drives from A&M. After a Tennessee punt, the Aggies took a 14-7 lead with 13:17 remaining in the second quarter on a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Isaiah Spiller.
Tennessee would make things interesting later in the second quarter after it looked like Texas A&M was going to run away with the game. After an Aggie field goal to extend their lead to 17-7, J.T. Shrout orchestrated a scoring drive upon replacing Bailey who had fumbled on the two previous drives. Shrout found Cedric Tillman 46-yards down the field in the end zone for an incredible touchdown catch that cut the lead to three.
The Vols’ defense failed to capitalize on the momentum once again. A&M once again marched down the field to take a 24-13 lead into the locker room at halftime courtesy of a 4-yard passing touchdown from Mond to Ainias Smith. The Aggies scored on all four of their offensive possessions in the first half.
Tennessee’s offense failed to replicate its first half success in the second half. After totaling 156 yards in the opening half, the Vols tallied just 57 yards of total offense in the second. They were 5-of-13 passing and averaged just 1.0 yard per rushing attempt.
UT’s defense presented the offense with multiple opportunities in the third quarter to stage a comeback. A&M had two possessions in the third frame. The first one after halftime resulted in a punt, while the second one resulted in a Mond interception that Alontae Taylor picked off in the end zone and returned 45-yards to midfield. Tennessee punted after each defensive stop.
The defensive stops didn’t come in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M had three possessions over the final 15 minutes and two of the three resulted in scores. The first score was a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Smith, while the second one was a field goal. A&M spent its only possession in the fourth quarter that it did not score on in the victory formation.
For the game, the Aggies produced points on six of their first eight possessions. Mond turned in one of his best performances of the season, completing 26 of his 32 passing attempts for 281 yards and a touchdown. He added 59 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on 12 carries.
Mond and A&M were even better on third down. They converted 10 of the 14 third downs they face. Mond was 8-of-10 passing in those situations, throwing for 107 yards as he picked up eight first downs.
Tennessee’s musical chairs at the quarterback position resulted in a combined 12-of-20 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns between Bailey and Shrout. Bailey finished a perfect 6-of-6 for 85 yards and a touchdown, but fumbled twice and took three sacks. Shrout was 6-of-14 for 104 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
It has yet to be determined whether or not Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M will be the final football game of the season for the Vols. There is still a possibility that they could play in a bowl game.