South Alabama at Tennessee

Tennessee ekes out 31-24 win over South Alabama

AP Sports Writer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Brian Randolph made a game-clinching, fourth-and-goal interception in the end zone with 1:51 remaining as Tennessee squandered most of a 24-point lead before hanging on for a 31-24 victory over South Alabama on Saturday.

South Alabama (2-2) had first-and-goal at the 7 in the closing minutes but was unable to get the tying touchdown. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 8, South Alabama quarterback Ross Metheny was hit by Corey Vereen while releasing the pass that Randolph intercepted.

Tennessee's Rajion Neal rushed for a career-high 169 yards on 25 carries. Neal's 11-yard touchdown run gave Tennessee (3-2) a 31-7 lead early in the third quarter.

Metheny was 21 of 42 for 234 yards with two interceptions. He also rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee managed to avoid a third straight loss as it heads into a brutal three-game stretch. The Vols host No. 9 Georgia and No. 12 South Carolina and visit No. 1 Alabama in their next three games.

The Vols overcame a three-interception performance from Justin Worley, who was 20 of 36 for 234 yards. Worley threw touchdown passes to freshmen A.J. Branisel and Josh Smith, but he also threw two interceptions into the end zone late in the first half to prevent Tennessee from extending its lead.

Tennessee still led 31-7 early in the third quarter, but the Vols struggled to move the ball the rest of the game while South Alabama gradually chipped away at the lead

South Alabama also capitalized on Tennessee's mistakes.

After a false start penalty on Tennessee's Alex Bullard nullified a successful fake field-goal attempt with the Vols leading 31-17, Michael Palardy's ensuing 52-yard field goal try was about 15-20 yards short. South Alabama's Roman Buchanan caught the errant kick and returned it to the Tennessee 29.

Cris Dinham capped South Alabama's ensuing possession with a 3-yard touchdown run that cut Tennessee's lead to 31-24 with 8:55 remaining.

South Alabama had shown it wouldn't be intimidated by the Neyland Stadium atmosphere by scoring a touchdown on the game's opening possession. Metheny went 4 of 4 for 55 yards on that opening series and capped the drive with a 32-yard touchdown run.

Tennessee regained control later in the first half.

Neal had a 53-yard run and Marlin Lane added a 54-yard burst to set up touchdowns as Tennessee reached the end zone on three straight first-half possessions. Lane's run was the Vols' longest play from scrimmage this season.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
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Scoring Summary
SALARoss Metheny 32 yd run (Aleem Sunanon kick)
TENNMichael Palardy 40 yd FG
TENNA.J. Branisel 2 yd pass from Justin Worley (Michael Palardy kick)
TENNJosh Smith 29 yd pass from Justin Worley (Michael Palardy kick)
TENNMarlin Lane 2 yd run (Michael Palardy kick)
TENNRajion Neal 11 yd run (Michael Palardy kick)
SALARoss Metheny 5 yd run (Aleem Sunanon kick)
SALAAleem Sunanon 24 yd FG
SALACris Dinham 3 yd run (Aleem Sunanon kick)
Team Stats
First Downs2224
Third Down Efficiency7-174-11
Fourth Down Efficiency1-20-0
Plays-Net Yards79-39273-482
Passing Yds257204
Kick Return Yds3286
Punt Return Yds330
Time of Poss.30:3329:27
Individual Stats
SALA: Ross Metheny 10-67, Jay Jones 10-36, Cris Dinham 7-33, Team 1--1
TENN: Rajion Neal 25-169, Marlin Lane 5-66, Tom Smith 3-27, Justin Worley 3-18, Team 1--2
SALA: Ross Metheny 21-42-234-2, Brandon Bridge 3-9-23-1
TENN: Justin Worley 20-36-204-3
SALA: Danny Woodson 5-39, Shavarez Smith 4-83, Bryant Lavender 4-55, Jereme Jones 4-26, Wes Saxton 3-40, Jay Jones 3-11, Cris Dinham 1-3
TENN: Jason Croom 3-50, Josh Smith 3-40, Pig Howard 3-36, Rajion Neal 3-14, Brendan Downs 2-20, MarQuez North 2-20, Marlin Lane 2-14, Vincent Dallas 1-8, A.J. Branisel 1-2
South Alabama8th Sun Belt 2-66-7
Tennessee2nd SEC East4-49-4

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