LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tennessee melted down in the final minutes at Kentucky, dropping its fourth straight game 29-26.
Jarrett Guarantano’s Hail Mary pass to Jeff George was complete, but George was tackled 3 yards short of the end zone on the game’s final play at Kroger Field.
The Vols (3-5, 0-5 SEC) forced 4 fumbles and didn’t turn the ball over, but red-zone struggles and 2 missed field goals left the door open for the Wildcats (6-2, 3-2).
Kentucky’s second win in the last 33 meetings against Tennessee puts coach Butch Jones’ job security in immediate jeopardy.
There has been wide speculation throughout the week that Tennessee officials could consider making a move to an interim coach with a loss against the Wildcats.
Kentucky QB Stephen Johnson scored the game’s winning points on an 11-yard TD run with 33 seconds left.
Tennessee’s defense set up the offense with forced fumbles recovered at the Kentucky 15, the Kentucky 41, the Tennessee 44 and the Kentucky 49. The offense converted those turnovers into 3 field goals.
The Vols were in position to pad their lead to 29-21 with 8:22 left, but freshman Brent Cimaglia missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Tennessee ended a streak of 15 quarters without a touchdown earlier in the game when freshman Ty Chandler scored on a 1-yard run with 8:37 left in the second quarter.
The previous offensive TD had occurred in the second quarter of the Vols’ 17-13 win over UMass on Sept. 23.
• Tennessee’s defense forced 4 fumbles: Kendall Vickers, Jonathan Kongbo, Nigel Warrior and Rashaan Gaulden all delivered the big hits.
• Freshman tailback Ty Chandler had 120 yards rushing on 22 carries along with 2 catches for 33 yards.
• Sophomore tailback Carlin Fils-aime had 13 carries for 73 yards.
• Freshman receiver Josh Palmer had 2 catches for 31 yards and drew two pass interference penalties after getting open behind the defensive backs covering him.
• Freshman kicker Brent Cimaglia had field goal makes of 45, 30, 24 and 30 yards, but a 44-yard attempt hit the upright, and a 43-yarder was wide left.
• Redshirt freshman QB Jarrett Guarantano was 18-of-23 passing for 242 yards, but Guarantano was also guilty of holding the ball too long at times, and he was sacked 7 times.
• Shotgun formation at 1-yard line — the Vols had their third motion penalty of the season operating out of the shotgun formation at the 1 against a road opponent. Tennessee scrapped it the next two series and scored from 1.
• Sophomore linebacker Daniel Bituli was ejected for needless extracurricular activity after a kickoff in second quarter.
• Junior nickelback Rashaan Gaulden lost his composure in the fourth quarter, getting tangled up after the whistle in the fourth quarter and drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that led to his ejection.