Tennessee looking to gain momentum against Kentucky

The Tennessee Volunteers (4-5, 1-4 SEC) are set to take on the Kentucky Wildcats (5-5, 2-5 SEC) this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

This will mark the 110th all-time meeting between the two teams, with Tennessee leading the series 76-24-9.

The Vols have had two weeks to prepare for this matchup due to their open date last Saturday.

Two weeks ago, however, was potentially the Vols’ best win to date as they defeated SEC East rival South Carolina.

The overtime victory was led by new starting quarterback Josh Dobbs. Dobbs threw for 300 yards and ran for another 166 while adding in five total touchdowns.

Freshman running back Jalen Hurd looked efficient as well, rushing for a career-high 125 yards while adding 58 yards and a touchdown through the air.

Defensively, Brian Randolph led the Vols with 14 tackles. More impressively, defensive linemen Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett combined for five sacks. Two of those sacks came during the overtime period and essentially sealed the game for Tennessee.

The Wildcats are reeling after their fourth loss in a row following a 63-31 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Quarterback Patrick Towles only managed 139 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception against the Bulldogs.

The one area where Kentucky excelled at was their rushing attack. Towles, Boom Williams, Braylon Heard and Mike Horton combined for over 200 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Similar to Kentucky, the Tennessee running game has been reinvigorated, following the change of quarterback. The Vols have averaged 282 yards on the ground over the past two games, compared to the dismal 105 yards they were averaging in the seven games prior.

“I think it is a byproduct of a lot of things,” UT Head Coach Butch Jones said on the improvement of the running game. “It is our offensive line growing together. I think Jacob Gilliam has really done a good job. So I think the continuity, the consistency of repetitions, the improvement and again a running quarterback. Jalen Hurd has really given us some great runs. So again, it has been a combination of a lot of things. We have also been able to throw the ball effectively. So that helps the run game as well.”

The Wildcats have struggled to stop the run game as of late, giving up 305 yards against the Bulldogs last Saturday and nearly 350 yards to Mississippi State two weeks earlier.

“They’re being very creative with the run game and you’ve heard me talk about it over and over again, anytime the quarterback is involved in the run game you’ve got problems,” Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops said about the Tennessee offense. “It’s a numbers thing and he can run it and he can throw it and they’re talented outside so they put up big numbers and created explosive plays.”

Tennessee will look to expose a Kentucky defense that ranks next to last in rushing yards allowed with a combination of quarterback Josh Dobbs and running back Jalen Hurd. The duo has combined for 425 yards over the past two games.

The Vols and the Wildcats are at very similar places this season.

With a win, Kentucky will become bowl eligible after a long dry spell in postseason play.

Tennessee is looking to do the same, needing two wins out of their last three games to become bowl eligible.

Butch Jones praised the job Mark Stoops has done at Kentucky, and sees some similarities in the two programs.

“Mark has done a very good job there,” Jones said at his weekly press conference. “They have improved greatly. They are fighting for a lot of the same things that we are fighting for.”

Mark Stoops echoed Jones’ statement.

“I think if you ask them they would probably say the same thing. But, I see a team that’s very good, and again, any compliment to a coach, I see a team that plays hard, a well-coached team that plays hard.”

For more SEC sports, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport

To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email sports@mtsusidelines.com

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