Ground Game, Defense Propel Vols To 24-0 Win Over UTEP

Sophomore running back Ty Chandler rushed 12 times for a career-best 158 yards and a touchdown as Tennessee recorded its first shutout since 2016 in a 24-0 victory over UTEP on Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

A crowd of 87,074 was on hand for the contest, including 1,067 evacuees of Hurricane Florence from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. They received complimentary tickets to the game from UT Athletics.

Chandler averaged 13.2 yards per carry, bolstered by an 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. His previous best rushing day came at Kentucky last season, when he had 120 yards on 22 attempts. He posted the most yards by a UT running back in a single game since Rajion Neal had 169 against South Alabama on. Sept. 28, 2013.

“Ty (Chandler) is a guy that is a pretty instinctive runner,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “He has good vision, but he (also) has good speed. So, he got out there and did a good job finishing that run.”

Sophomore running back Tim Jordan added another rushing TD for the Vols, who rolled up 345 yards on the ground on 50 carries for a 6.9 average on the day. Graduate transfer Madre London contributed a season-high 74 yards to that cause via nine attempts.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano completed 12 of 16 passes for 168 yards and a score, connecting with six different receivers. Redshirt junior wide receiver Jauan Jennings had a four-yard TD reception and finished with three catches for 22 yards. Junior wideout Brandon Johnson led UT with four catches for 51 yards, while sophomore receiver Josh Palmer hauled in two balls for a career-best 64 yards.

UT’s defense, meanwhile, limited the Miners (0-3) to only 134 total yards and seven first downs. Junior linebacker Daniel Bituli paced the Vols, tallying six tackles, including a sack. Redshirt senior defensive end Alexis Johnson Jr. added five stops and a quarterback hurry.

Tennessee allowed the Miners to cross the 50-yard line only twice during the game, with both times coming in the first half. The Big Orange defense allowed the Miners to convert only two of 13 third-down plays into first downs, helping secure the program’s first shutout of any opponent since a 55-0 Homecoming romp over Tennessee Tech on Nov. 5, 2016, and its first blanking of an FBS foe since rolling past North Texas 24-0 in another Homecoming game on Nov. 14, 2015.

After neither team moved the ball on its opening possession of the game, UT took over at its own 19-yard line following a UTEP punt. The Vols quickly marched down the field and found themselves at the UTEP 17. A pair of penalties slowed the drive, however, and sophomore placekicker Brent Cimaglia came on to boot a 38-yard field goal to put the home team on top, 3-0, with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter.

After junior Marquez Callaway set the Vols up at the UTEP 36 with a 13-yard punt return early in the second period, UT’s offense took full advantage of the excellent field position. With a 29-yard strike from Guarantano to Johnson accounting for a good chunk of the drive, Jordan added the finishing touch with a three-yard plunge into the end zone. Cimaglia added the PAT to make it 10-0 Vols with 10:49 to go before the half.

It didn’t take Tennessee long to put points on the board in the second half. After forcing a three-and-out by UTEP on its opening possession, UT took control at its own 19. Chandler made it a one-play drive, bursting through the left side of the line and running untouched down the west sideline for an 81-yard touchdown. It was UT’s longest rush since 2006, when LaMarcus Coker had an 87-yard TD dash vs. Vanderbilt. Cimaglia’s point-after kick made it 17-0 with 13:49 to go in the third.

UT padded its lead at the outset of the final stanza, marching 71 yards in 11 plays to push its lead to 24-0 with 11:14 left in the fourth. A four-yard touchdown toss from Guarantano to Jennings was the capper, with Cimaglia adding the PAT.  Four different running backs carried the ball during the series for the Vols, with Chandler’s 13-yard rush setting up the scoring play.

The Vols begin conference play next Saturday, as Florida comes to Knoxville for a night game. Kickoff will be at 7 or 7:30 p.m. ET, depending on which television network (ESPN/ESPN2/SEC Network) elects to carry the game.

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Source: University of Tennessee Athletic Department

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