The University of Tennessee Volunteers wrapped up the 2019 regular season campaign this past Saturday with a 28-10 shellacking of the Vanderbilt Commodores on Senior Day. I was more than confident that we would beat our in-state nuisance, it was great to see it come to fruition.
The Vols decimated Vandy on what most would consider an off-night on the offensive side of the ball as a whole. However, we also got some glimpses of the future on Rocky Top. Let’s take a look at what was a great day and night with miserable weather, as well as where I expect the Vols to go bowling!
All Gray, All Day
While Saturday was meant to be a farewell to a number of seniors that gave their all for Tennessee (and it was), the show was stolen by freshman running back Eric Gray. After Jarrett Guarantano started out an ugly night with some ugly passes, it was obvious early on that U.T. was going to need to establish a running game. The problem? Our running game has been rather mediocre for most of the season. The answer to said problem made himself known early on.
Eric Gray got started quickly. He began by taking the ball 56 yards in the first quarter for his 1st rushing touchdown of the season. He later followed that big play up with an even bigger play midway through the 2nd quarter. This one was a 94-yard house call that was the longest touchdown run by any freshman in THE HISTORY of our proud program. Gray still wasn’t finished. He capped off the evening with the Vols’ final regular season touchdown and the Vanderbilt kill-shot with a 4-yard scamper with under 8:00 left in the game.
Eric Gray, a 3-time Mr. Football Award Winner in Tennessee, capped off his Freshman year home finale in style, garnering SEC Freshman of the Week recognition. His final stat-line on the evening looked like this: 25 rushes for 246 yards (9.8 avg), 3 Touchdowns. This eclipsed U.T.’s previous freshman rushing record which was held by some guy named Jamal Lewis (sarcasm, people), which was 232 yards. T
A Big Orange Farewell
Tennessee formally said “goodbye” to a number of Vols who have persevered and produced during their respective stints on Rocky Top. The following scholarship players ran through the “T” for the final time: Daniel Bituli, Tyler Byrd, Marquez Callaway, Andrew Craig, Jauan Jennings, Riley Lovingood, Darrell Taylor, Nigel Warrior, and Dominick Wood-Anderson. Walk-on players Landon Knoll, Matt Ballard, Chip Omer, and Jake Yelich were also honored. Finally, former linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. got to participate as his senior season was cut short due to injury. While each of these players contributed in different ways and at different levels of production, they all represented U.T. well.
Where We Headin’?
As I scroll here currently, I am seein predictions for at least 5 different bowl games as Tennessee’s final contest. I am sure there are more out there, but I am only taking three seriously. These are in no specific order.
- Music City Bowl (Nashville- December 31, 2019)- v. ACC
- Gator Bowl (Jacksonville- January 2, 2020)- v. Big 10
- Outback Bowl (Tampa- January 1, 2020)- v. Big 10
In my opinion, we end up in the Gator Bowl and face Indiana. Mark that as my prediction. However, I will not be surprised at all with either of the other two being the bowl game we go to. Music City Bowl we would absolutely pack out. Gator Bowl we get to take down a mid-level Big 10 team. Outback Bowl is the flashiest of the three. I would be happy with any of them, and am so glad we can even have this discussion.
I will be back after our bowl game to give you my final overview of our season. 7-5 is definitely looked upon by me as a success and adding an 8th win via bowl game would be icing on the cake! I will also take a look back at my “Give (them) six” series at some point during the offseason to compare my predictions to what actually took place this season!
Those will be the final couple of articles that I write covering Tennessee Volunteers Football. Fret not, as I will also be around the rest of this season covering basketball for MoreImportantIssues! Speaking of that, for minute to minute coverage of all sports on The Hill, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues. There are articles and podcasts on a variety of platforms, including Twitter (@More_Issues) and iTunes! Until next time, Go Vols!
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