Jarrett Guarantano opened the scoring with a three-yard rushing touchdown, but his playing time the rest of the game is what may be most remembered about this game.
The Vols pulled away for a 24-10 victory over Southern Miss on Saturday, but a leg injury to Guarantano knocked him out of the game for three plays in the first half. That meant backup quarterback Will McBride came in briefly, before Guarantano returned. But McBride started the second half and shortly thereafter, Guarantano was seen walking to the locker room with medical staff. Injuries mounted throughout the game for Tennessee, including offensive lineman Coleman Thomas, who left the game in the third quarter and further depleted the offensive line depth.
Emmanuel Mosley made an interception midway through the third quarter as Southern Miss appeared to gain traction on a drive. One play later, running back John Kelly scored on a 20-yard run with 5:15 left in the third quarter to give the Vols a 17-3 lead.
The Vols’ defense kept up the pressure on the ensuring Southern Miss drive as Rashaan Gaulden recovered a fumble, which led to a Tennessee touchdown after Southern Miss was called for leaping on a field goal attempt.
Penalties were lopsided for much of the game, and Tennessee wasn’t whistled for its first penalty until early in the fourth quarter. By then, Southern Miss already had 12 penalties for 105 yards.
McBride finished the game 1-for-18 for 13 yards passing.
The stadium was also largely full, with an announced attendance of 95,551. Earlier in the week, some fans took to social media to organize an “#EmptyNeyland” campaign to boycott the homecoming game as a criticism of coach Butch Jones, and the athletics department handling of his job status.
The Vols improved to 4-5, and will play at Missouri next week.