Tennessee vs. Auburn

Tennessee fans celebrate a touchdown by Tennessee running back Ty Chandler (8) against Auburn Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

The Auburn Tigers spent the week talking accountability, from Gus Malzahn to Kevin Steele, from Chip Lindsey to Jarrett Stidham.

Still, there was no accounting for what was to come.

Tennessee, a two-touchdown underdog and loser of a school-record 11 straight SEC games, came to Jordan-Hare Stadium and proved to be the better team in a 30-24 victory.

Don’t blame the early start or the multiple reports of things amiss in the locker room. For 21st-ranked Auburn, this was truly a team effort.

Remember the world-class defense that shut down Pac-12 favorite Washington in the opener? It made Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano look like the second coming of Drew Brees.

Time after time Guarantano went over the top, throwing to tightly covered receivers. Time after time, his receivers made the adjustment, and the catch.

Remember the AWOL Auburn running game? It showed signs of awakening, cracking the 100-yard mark for just the second time in a month.

But when bell-cow running back Boobee Whitlow left for the second time with an apparent re-injured shoulder, the Tigers ground attack disappeared again.

Remember the 2017 Stidham? His biggest and best completion covered 13 yards to freshman Anthony Schwartz, who broke two tackles on impact before outracing the Vols secondary for what looked like a 76-yard game-turning touchdown.

Instead, the game turned on the Stidham of 2018’s third turnover of the day, a forced fumble trying to elude a sack that also led to Whitlow’s game-departing injury in the scramble to try to retrieve the ball.

Tennessee’s Alontae Taylor scooped, scored, and one of the biggest upsets in the renewal of a historic rivalry turned from fantasy to reality.

No longer is Tennessee a punch line. The Vols have resurrected their season. The Vols passed an Auburn program that once seemingly belonged in the Top 5 and now flounders in the wake of a once-promising season.

Accountability is a start. Make no mistake.

But answers are better. The Auburn fan base needs to see something viable – namely, a return to Auburn football – to believe again.

Contact Doug Segrest at sports@montgomeryadvertiser.com.