The wait is over, Tennessee.
First-year coach Jeremy Pruitt took the Vols into Jordan-Hare Stadium as two-touchdown underdogs Saturday afternoon, and came away with a 30-24 win over the fledgling Auburn Tigers. The win breaks an 11-game SEC losing streak, and is Pruitt's first signature win of his head coaching career.
Make no mistake, No. 21 Auburn shouldn't have been ranked based on the way its offense has played all season. But that shouldn't take away from what this means to Pruitt and the Volunteers.
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was 21-of-32 passing for 328 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against a Tigers defense that came into the game giving up just 188 yards per game through the air and an SEC-best 153 in conference games. That has nothing to do with Auburn's ineptitude, that has to do with a quarterback coming of age in a hostile environment behind an offensive line that has been shaky all season.
When you combine Guarantano's newfound confidence and a wide receiving corps that looked like one of the best in the conference Saturday afternoon, you have a recipe for success. Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway were already known commodities for the Vols, but Josh Palmer continued his work as the ultimate big play threat with three catches for 84 yards. That gives Palmer 11 catches for 284 yards on the season -- a whopping 25.8 yards per catch.
Tennessee needed this win, earned this win and deserved this win.
Aside from the six-turnover debacle against Florida, the Vols have played smart football all year, didn't quit and have taken on the no-nonsense mentality of Pruitt. They just didn't have the talent or experience to earn they payoff.
It paid off in a big way against the Tigers.
Tennessee isn't back. With the behemoth known as Georgia and an experienced coach in Dan Mullen in a fertile recruiting ground at Florida, it's going to take some time to get back into SEC East contention. But 11 games without a win in SEC play took some time too, as did finding a competent head coach that knows how to operate a functional program.
Pruitt does, and laid the foundation for the future of the Tennessee football program Saturday.
That fact has nothing to do with Auburn's ineptitude. It just came at the Tigers expense.