The Tennessee Vols (5-5, 2-4 SEC) routed the Kentucky Wildcats (5-6, 2-6 SEC) 50-16 Saturday in Neyland Stadium, giving Tennessee back-to-back conference wins.
“(It was) a very good team victory, but there are many, many things we need to improve on,” Head coach Butch Jones said after the win to UTsports.com. “Every extra point counts, so we need to get some things sured up overall, but a very, very good team victory.”
After giving up an opening drive field goal, Tennessee looked extremely efficient early, scoring in just 1:27 on a 21-yard connection between Josh Dobbs and a now healthy Von Pearson.
A few plays later, Brian Randolph picked off a Reese Phillips pass and returned it 23 yards for another score.
Early in the second quarter, Dobbs connected with Pearson on yet another touchdown pass, this time from 16 yards out.
Leading 20-3 after a missed extra point, the Tennessee offense refused to put on the breaks.
Aaron Medley booted a 38-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. Josh Dobbs continued to make plays, running in a nine-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 30-3.
“Josh is a very talented young man,” Jones said of the sophomore quarterback. “He adds another dynamic, and he does a great job of distributing the football. I believe we didn’t turnover the football, and the quarterback is the caretaker of the football. That football holds all of our goals, dreams and aspirations.”
The Wildcats then scored on a quarterback run of their own, taking the ball 66 yards down the field on a seven-play drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown by Patrick Towles.
Both teams traded field goals before going into halftime. The Vols led 33-13 going into the second half.
Tennessee picked up right where they left off in the third quarter, as Evan Berry returned the opening kickoff 48 yards, giving the Volunteer offense great field position.
The Vols scored on the very first play of their opening drive as Dobbs hit Jason Croom in-stride for a 52-yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 40-13 advantage.
“I feel that as an offense, we definitely played a full game of good football,” Dobbs said in a post-game interview with UTsports.com. “We were able to take care of the football, move the ball very well tonight. We’re clicking on all cylinders which is very good and we’ll definitely need to keep this up.”
The two teams would exchange field goals yet again before cornerback Justin Coleman intercepted Patrick Towles pass, returning it 25 yards to the Kentucky 19 yard line.
This set up the last score of the day, as Jalen Hurd scored from four yards out to give Tennessee a 50-16 lead.
The Vols will now look forward to a senior night matchup with the Missouri Tigers (8-2, 5-1 SEC), who are fresh off an upset of former Big 12 rival Texas A&M on Saturday.
The focus of the entire season has been bowl eligibility, and with a win next week, the Vols will be bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
“We talk about the maturity of a football team. You enjoy this win, but you have to come back to work,” Jones said. We have some challenges down the road. We have a talented football team coming in here next week. We just have to focus and not get ahead of ourselves. It was victory number five, and that is it. I am proud of our guys, but it is back to work tomorrow.”
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To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org