Vols lose, Blue Raiders win

By RON WYNN | Nashville Voice

The Tennessee Volunteers ended up on the wrong side of a tough road loss Saturday, while the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders enjoyed a prolific offensive day on the way to a blowout in front of a hostile crowd.

Tennessee blew a 12-point second half lead and dropped a 27-24 SEC contest to South Carolina, while MTSU scored early and often on the way to a 51-17 romp. For the Vols, it was a critical loss, while MTSU solidified their first-place standing in Conference USA.

Tennessee did pretty much everything they wanted offensively throughout the first half and midway through the third quarter. They relied on a short passing game, getting the ball outside to their running backs, and occasionally hitting a big play on the outside to their receivers.

When Carlin Fils-Aime raced 14 yards into the end zone in the third quarter to make it 21-9, it seemed the Volunteers had things wrapped up.

Instead, they collapsed as South Carolina’s Jake Bentley led South Carolina on scoring drives, then managed to survive a huge hit on the tying two-point conversion play.

While the South Carolina defense was stopped the Volunteer offense twice on downs in the fourth quarter, Bentley engineered a game-winning drive that led to Parker White’s 25-yard field goal that was the difference.

The loss negated some strong individual efforts from Tennessee. These included Jarrett Guarantino completing 27 of 39 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, including converting four fourth downs in one stretch.

Jauan Jennings had a six-yard touchdown reception, but his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty led to a South Carolina matching touchdown later.

Tennessee was also hurt by Rico Dowdle’s 140 yards rushing. Tennessee argued that Dowdle fumbled right before South Carolina’s last touchdown, but they were overruled by the replay officials. Unlike their other SEC losses, this game was one Tennessee knows it could and should have won.

“We played some good football today,” UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt told ESPN. “We didn’t finish the game. We made mistakes and they took advantage of it.”

South Carolina evened its record at 3-3 in the SEC (4-3 overall). Tennessee is 1-4 in conference play (3-5 overall), but have a very winnable home game Saturday against Charlotte.

It’s seldom that a safety also gets a huge offensive play, but MTSU’s Reed Blankenship had a 100-yard interception run that gave MTSU a 31-10 lead and pretty much ended any suspense regarding the fate of Old Dominion. Blankenship also had a sack and 17 tackles as part of a spectacular defensive afternoon. MTSU won its fourth C-USA game in five contests (5-3 overall).

Brent Stockstill returned from injury to throw for 280 yards and three touchdowns while Terelle West had 120 yards and one touchdown. Old Dominion has one marquee victory this season, a 49-35 upset over Virginia Tech, ranked 13th at the time. But Saturday’s defeat was their fourth conference loss in five tries (2-7 overall). MTSU’s next opponent is longtime rival Western Kentucky.

Grizzlies prevail over Suns 117-96 at home

After the opening week of the NBA season, the Memphis Grizzlies have won three of five games. That’s neither a great nor a poor start, and their 117-96 home victory Saturday night over the Phoenix Suns serves as a blueprint for what they hope will be a return to the playoffs in the 2018-19 season.

Offensively, they got 19 points from Marc Gasol and 18 each from Mike Conley and MarShon Brooks. But they also had two other double-figure scorers in Garrett Temple with 15 and Wayne Selden with 14.

Defensively, they held Phoenix to 46 percent shooting, and the Suns only made nine of 33 three-pointers.

“We want to be a versatile offensive team where you can’t key in on one or two guys to shut us down,” Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told ESPN. “It’s good to see a bunch of guys get double-figure points. That’s means we’re sharing the ball well.”

The Grizzlies output overshadowed a strong game from the Suns’ first-round draft pick (and first overall) Deandrew Ayton. Ayton had a season-high 24 points and eight rebounds for a Suns team minus its leading scorer Devin Booker, who was out with a strained hamstring.

The Grizzlies opened the week with a home game against the Washington Wizards. They then begin a road trip with games Friday in Utah against the Jazz and Sunday in Phoenix against the Suns.

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