The 2020 edition of the historic Gator Bowl provided viewers with a thrilling matchup and competitive game. In an ending reminiscent of the 2016 comeback Vols, the Tennessee Volunteers were able to stun the Indiana Hoosiers 23-22 to enter the new decade on a high note. Here, we recap the 2020 Taxslayer Gator Bowl win for the Volunteers.
2020 Gator Bowl Recap
In a game predicted to be a solid win for Tennessee, the Hoosiers gave the Vols all they could handle and more. After a lackluster, sluggish start for both teams, the Vols took a 6-3 lead into halftime. It would be the Hoosiers that then jumped ahead in the third to lead 19-9. They would lead by as many as 13 after extending the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Still, it would be Tennessee who got the last laugh after an impressive comeback. They scored 14 points in 30 seconds to take a late 23-22 lead. The defense sealed the win with a late stop, as the Vols took home the 2020 Gator Bowl trophy.
— TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (@taxslayerbowl) January 3, 2020
Defenses Shine Early
Early in the contest, both teams struggled to establish drives and put points on the board. In the first half, the two teams combined for nine points, four punts, and three turnovers (including a turnover on downs in the red zone). Tennessee was able to put together some drives, as they had 21 offensive plays in Indiana territory. However, their red zone offense was atrocious, failing to convert a single touchdown on three trips to the red zone. In fact, Indiana’s defense was able to get into the endzone before the Vols’ first touchdown. Early in the second half, Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano forced a pass into coverage and Indiana cornerback Jamar Johnson took it the distance.
JAMAR JOHNSON HOUSE CALL📱
The Hoosiers (+3.5) D comes up big with a Pick-6 to extend their lead to 10🏈
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) January 3, 2020
Indiana didn’t fare much better, only reaching the red zone once in the opening two quarters. After an interception set them up in Tennessee territory, they had to settle for a field goal as the half expired. Throughout the first half, Tennessee’s defense flexed its muscles and kept the Indiana offense in check. Indiana was only able to accrue a mere 69 total yards in the first half. The rush defense, in particular, maintained their strong showing from the regular season. Indiana’s running game was effectively eliminated from the gameplan. They had 32 rushing yards going into the halftime break, and 23 of those came on two quarterback scrambles to close the half. By the end of the game, they would only manage 76 total rushing yards. This forced the offense to come through their passing game and quarterback Peyton Ramsey, as they were stuck in a one-dimensional game.
The Peyton Ramsey Show
Speaking of Indiana’s junior quarterback, Ramsey single-handedly turned the game in favor of the Hoosiers in the third quarter. Coming out of halftime, he provided a spark the offense desperately needed. The Hoosiers were able to score the first touchdown of the evening on the opening drive. As the pocket repeatedly collapsed around him, he found a way to make plays with his legs, capping off the drive with a touchdown run.
#GatorBowl 9:29 3Q – Indiana 10, Tennessee 6 – the #Hoosiers open the second half with a 5:31 drive that ends with a Peyton Ramsey sneak. The first touchdown of the game gives Indiana its first lead on the night. https://t.co/svzcH1JamT
— JoeySportsBall (@JoeyHashtag) January 3, 2020
Ramsey accounted for 281 of the teams 303 total yards himself. His rushing touchdown was the only offensive touchdown of the game for the Hoosiers. He really was a one-man show for the Indiana faithful. He finished the game 20-34 for 227 yards passing and also accounted for 54 of the teams 76 rushing yards.
30 for 14 – A Tennessee Story
Down by two scores with a mere 6:58 seconds left in the game, it seemed that midnight had struck on the Vols season, winning streak, and Gator Bowl hopes. According to ESPN’s win probability index, Indiana had as high as a 97.6% chance of winning late in the contest. Tennessee had already tried a quarterback change, giving Brian Maurer a chance to spark the offense in the third quarter to no avail. Now, it was senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano who would be tasked with bringing the Vols back. The Vols offense was able to march down the field in just over two and a half to bring the game within six points. The 82-yard drive was capped off by a one-yard Quavaris Crouch touchdown run.
It was at this point that the game turned in favor of the men in orange. On the ensuing kickoff, Paxton Brooks was able to convert a surprise onside kick to give the Vols the ball back at 4:19 left in the game. With three timeouts in their pocket, everyone in the stadium expected a normal kickoff. Freshman Eric Gray came up with the two biggest plays of the evening in a short sequence. Sparked by a wave of momentum, the Vols marched down the field with renewed confidence. Gray would then spring a 16-yard draw up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown, only seconds after recovering the onside kick in the first place. The Vols scored 14 points in 30 seconds take the lead from a stunned Indiana team and fanbase.
The freshman Eric Gray comes in clutch and gives the Vols their 8th win of the season. pic.twitter.com/QJlL9TAtPs
— THE CFBC (@CfbcThe) January 3, 2020
Tennessee Seals a Historic Comeback
Indiana would get the ball back two more times, but the Tennessee defense came up strong with two stops to seal the victory. Prior to this contest, all FBS teams were a combined 0-471 when trailing by 13+ with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Make that 1-471. A recap of the 2020 Gator Bowl reads like a microcosm of the entire season for the Vols. A slow start that led to panic before ultimately surprising everyone with a resurgence in the final stanza. With a three-win improvement over year one, the Jeremy Pruitt era on Rocky Top looks bright.