Butch Jones talks after UT's 55-23 loss to Auburn (Pt. 1)
Tennessee regained its rushing mojo on Saturday and got a big defensive score. Good work on Homecoming day.
But none of that mattered in the least.
The Vols couldn’t tackle Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall or any Tiger returning a kick.
The No. 7 Tigers crushed the Vols 55-23 before a sold-out Neyland Stadium crowd of 102,455 and an ESPN national audience.
Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC) continued its surprising success, trashing the Tennessee defense for 444 rushing yards, 214 of them from Marshall.
The Tigers also scored on an 85-yard punt return and a 90-yard kickoff return.
A third consecutive bashing by a top-10 team leaves UT at 4-6, 1-5 SEC.
There is no more margin for error to get bowl eligible. The Vols have to beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
A 226-yard UT rushing effort was wasted.
So was Jacques Smith’s 18-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
So were three Michael Palardy field goals.
After allowing 339 rusing yards last week to Missouri, the Vols were even more inept against Auburn.
The Tigers’ 28-point second quarter was the turning point.
Early on, the Vols saw two promising drives end in Palardy field goals. But Rajion Neal’s 17-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter gave UT a 13-6 lead.
All heck was about to break loose.
Marshall’s 62-yard keeper set up a 13-yard Tre Mason touchdown to tie the score. The two-play drive lasted 32 seconds.
The next Auburn score was even quicker. Chris Davis took a Palardy punt 85 yards and the Tigers led 20-13.
The next Palardy punt went out of bounds. But the Tigers reeled off chunk plays, including 23- and 12-yard runs by Marshall. Marshall scored from the 7 for a 27-13 lead.
The Vols’ only defensive highlight came when Marshall tried to pass. Defensive end Smith picked off a third-down pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.
That cut the Auburn lead to 27-20 but it didn’t flip momentum.
Smith was penalized for celebration, Palardy kicked off from his 20 and Mason returned it 34 yards to the Tennessee 45.
Two plays later, Marshall went 38 yards untouched on a keeper.
The 30-second drive made it 34-20 at the half.
The Tigers picked right up where they left off after the break. Corey Grant returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a score.
Mason’s 4-yard TD run made it 48-23 going into the fourth quarter.
Mason capped the scoring with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.