Tennessee rallied and scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the Gator Bowl to secure a 23-22 win over Indiana. It is the sixth straight win for the Volunteers, who finish the season 8-5 after a stunning 0-2 start that included losses to Georgia State and BYU.
Freshman linebacker Quavaris Crouch lined up at running back and plunged in from one yard out to cut Indiana’s lead to 22-16 with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter. Paxton Brooks then executed a perfect surprise onside kick that was recovered by true freshman running back Eric Gray at the Tennessee 46-yard line. Three plays later, Gray took it up the middle and scored from 16 yards out for the go-ahead touchdown. He finished the day with 86 yards and one score on 14 carries.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, it was the first win in 472 tries this season where a team trailed by 13 or more points in the final five minutes and came back to win.
The Gator Bowl win encapsulated the roller coaster that was Tennessee’s season.
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was in and out of the lineup all season, and was benched in favor of Brian Maurer early in the third quarter against Indiana after the offense sputtered in the red zone on three first half drives. Guarantano re-entered after just one drive and the staged the comeback. He completed seven of his 11 fourth quarter passes for 91 yards, and provided the spark that the offense had been missing throughout the game. He finished the night 18-of-31 passing for 221 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
It’s a fitting end to a wild ride for coach Jeremy Pruitt’s team. In just his second year as a head coach, Pruitt led his team through the dreadful start, navigated through quarterback injuries and ineffectiveness, and secured the program’s first winning season since 2016.
It’s a heart-breaking loss for an Indiana team that hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1991 Copper Bowl — the longest drought among Power Five teams. The fourth-quarter collapse came on a night that saw quarterback Peyton Ramsey shine in a losing effort. The junior — who was also benched this season — went 20-of-34 passing for 227 yards and added 54 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.