KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee entered the 2019 season having won 20 consecutive season openers at Neyland Stadium. That streak ended Saturday when Georgia State upset the Vols 38-30 in Knoxville in front of an announced attendance of over 85-thousand fans. Saturday marked Tennessee’s first season-opening loss at Neyland Stadium since a 13-3 loss to Pittsburgh in 1983.
Georgia State, who began playing football in 2010, took care of a Tennessee program that began in 1891.
Tennessee seemed out of whack from the beginning. On the second play of the game, Jarrett Guarantano’s backward pass to Ty Chandler hit the grass before Georgia State recovered. Six plays later, Panthers sophomore running back Seth Paige scored from four yards out to quiet the home crowd early and give Georgia State a 7-0 lead.
Guarantano and Tennessee’s offense responded on the following drive, going 78 yards in 16 plays. The redshirt junior quarterback lobbed up a 6 yard touchdown pass to Marquez Callaway for Tennessee’s first trip to the end zone in 2019.
The Vols only needed five plays on its next drive to find paydirt. Junior running back Ty Chandler broke free for a 31-yard rushing touchdown to put Tennessee in front 14-7 to end the first quarter.
Georgia State’s ensuing possession began with close to 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter. After a 16-play drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Dan Ellington to Cornelius McCoy to tie the game, Tennessee was left with a little over three minutes before halftime. The Vols had several opportunities to score inside the 10-yard line before settling for a 19-yard field goal by Brent Cimaglia, giving Tennessee a 17-14 lead at the break.
The Panthers began the third quarter by going 75 yards in nine plays, finishing with a six-yard touchdown pass from Ellington to Aubry Payne. Trailing by four, Tennessee’s final drive of the third quarter stalled out with a 48-yard field goal by Cimaglia, his longest since connecting from 51 yards at Florida in 2017.
In need of a spark, Tennessee got just that from junior outside linebacker Deandre Johnson in the fourth quarter. Trailing 21-20, Johnson picked up a strip-sack on Ellington before Latrell Jumphus recovered the fumble. The Vols offense turned that into a 31-yard field goal, with Cimaglia giving Tennessee a 23-21 lead.
But that wouldn’t last long. Georgia State drove 75 yards in nine plays once again, this time ending with a 19-yard rushing touchdown by Tra Barnett to push the Panthers’ lead to 28-23.
With the game on the line, Guarantano fumbled the ball on a sack at Tennessee’s own 39-yard line, giving Georgia State the ball with just under nine minutes to play in the game. Five plays later, Ellington turned the turnover into a 22-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers in front 35-23. After a Guarantano interception on a last-ditch effort, Georgia State tacked on a field goal to give them a 15 point cushion.
With two seconds remaining in the game, Guarantano connected with Jauan Jennings for an 18-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 38-30. Jennings led Tennessee’s receivers with 108 yards on seven catches.
Tennessee will host BYU Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.