By Jimmy Hyams
Shortly after Tennessee upset No. 12 Kentucky 24-7 at Neyland Stadium, Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt had a point to make.
“We’re 2-0 in November,’’ Pruitt said. “That’s a good thing.’’
Indeed it is.
The month didn’t start very promising. The Vols snoozed through a 14-3 victory over Charlotte, sending the homecoming crowd home with a bad taste in its collective mouth after a wickedly bad offensive performance.
But that changed Saturday, when Tennessee outrushed, outplayed, outhit and outcoached Kentucky.
Even with some late fumbles, it was Tennessee’s most complete game of the season and the offensive line’s best performance.
When the scoreboard read 24-0, UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano wasn’t sure what to think.
“It felt good,’’ he said. “We weren’t used to it.’’
Darrell Taylor, who had four sacks against Kentucky, was elated with the huge lead.
His thoughts: “Our offense is doing their thing.’’
The defense did its thing as well, holding Kentucky to one touchdown and 262 total yards, 77 on the ground. Benny Snell, who had 180 rushing yards and three touchdowns against UT last year, rushed for 81 yards and no touchdowns.
After going 0-8 in SEC play last season, the Vols are 2-4 with Missouri and Vanderbilt left on the SEC schedule.
In contrast to last year’s team, which threw in the towel late and was outscored 122-51 in the final three SEC games, Pruitt’s first team is hungry to finish strong.
“The coaches were telling us all week, in November, we’ve got to go undefeated,’’ running back Tim Jordan said.
Tennessee went undefeated in November in 2015 and 2010. Those are the only unbeaten Novembers in the past decade.
The first task towards remaining unbeaten this month is Missouri, which is 6-4 after 33-28 victory over Vanderbilt. The Tigers won at Florida 38-17 the week before.
Missouri’s offense has been a mismatch for UT’s defense the past two years. In those games, Missouri has scored 87 points, rushed for an astounding 853 yards and totaled 1,399 yards.
Tiger quarterback Drew Lock has thrown for 537 yards and five scores with three interceptions in the past two meetings. But he is also under 50 percent passing – 34 of 71.
Saturday night, Pruitt wanted to enjoy his first home win against a ranked opponent.
So when asked post game about facing an explosive Missouri offense led by Lock, Pruitt wasn’t having any of it.
“I don’t want to think about Drew Lock tonight,’’ Pruitt said. “I’d like to be able to sleep.’’