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Eric Gray’s 16-yard touchdown run and Brent Cimaglia’s subsequent extra-point kick with 3:51 left Thursday night capped Tennessee’s rally from a 13-point fourth-quarter hole as it edged Indiana 23-22 in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
Gray, who rushed for a game-high 86 yards on 14 carries, set up his score by recovering an onside kick at the Volunteers’ 46, three plays after Quavaris Crouch’s 1-yard plunge cut their deficit to 22-16.
Tennessee (8-5) finished the season with a six-game winning streak.
The Hoosiers (8-5) had a chance to take the lead, but Logan Justus’ 52-yard field goal try with 2:12 left in the game hooked wide right. Their final possession ended at the Volunteers’ 45-yard line with 18 seconds left as Peyton Ramsey’s fourth-down pass under pressure fell short of its intended target.
Ramsey completed 20 of 34 passes for 227 yards and an interception while running for a touchdown that gave Indiana a 10-6 third-quarter lead. Teammate Jamar Johnson made it 16-6 just 63 seconds later with a 63-yard interception return of a Jarrett Guarantano pass.
But Guarantano, who was benched for a series, bounced back to helm the fourth-quarter touchdown drives. He finished 18 of 31 for 221 yards with two picks.
Tennessee controlled the first half, even though it played without leading receiver Jauan Jennings, suspended for the half after being ejected from the Volunteers’ win Nov. 30 over Vanderbilt.
But the Volunteers failed to score touchdowns on three forays inside the Indiana 20. In fact, their first drive of that sort ended when Guarantano’s fourth-and-goal throw from the 2 for Dominick Wood-Anderson fell incomplete.
Tennessee settled for 23- and 32-yard field goals by Cimaglia in the second quarter. But the Hoosiers’ offense took advantage of a short field set up by Micah McFadden’s interception late in the half, driving 36 yards to position Justus for a 24-yard field goal as time expired to cut their deficit to 6-3.
—Field Level Media