KNOXVILLE, TN- Tennessee ran for a season-high 376 yards and had a trio of players rush for 94 or more yards in a 49-36 victory over Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 101,075 at Neyland Stadium.
Senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs put forth another stellar performance against the Wildcats (5-5, 4-4 SEC), accounting for 370 yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) on the afternoon. Dobbs has now totaled 1,242 yards and 16 total touchdowns in his career against Kentucky. He finished with a season-high 147 yards rushing to go along with 223 yards through the air.
Saturday also marked the return of running back Alvin Kamara, and he didn’t disappoint, running for season-high 128 yards and two touchdowns. John Kelly had another solid game as well, finishing with 94 yards rushing on 16 carries. Dobbs, Kamara and Kelly combined for 369 of the team’s 376 total rushing yards.
The win kept the Vols’ SEC East title hopes alive and was their fifth straight in the series against the Wildcats. The two teams combined for 1,204 total yards, including 789 on the ground, the most combined rushing yards in a Tennessee game this season. UT (7-3, 3-3 SEC) finished with 599 total yards while UK racked up 635.
After a three and out by the Vols on their opening drive, the Wildcats needed just two plays to reach the end zone on their first possession. Quarterback Stephen Johnson sprinted 75 yards on UK’s first play from scrimmage and Stanley “Boom” Williams finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Cats an early 7-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Dobbs marched the Vols 83 yards down the field on their next possession, capping the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Josh Smith in the corner of the end zone. Dobbs had a 41-yard run earlier in the drive to get UT into scoring position.
A 37-yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis followed a nine-play drive that put UK up 10-7 late in the first quarter. The Wildcats converted a third-and-long from their own 40-yard line to keep the drive alive before Benny Snell found room down the left sideline for 27-yard rush to the Tennessee 16-yard line.
Dobbs continued to do damage with his legs as the Vols answered again on the following drive to take a 14-10 advantage. The senior evaded a couple of defenders before darting down the right sideline for a 35-yard gain to the 1-yard line. He punched it in two plays later to surpass Jimmy Streater for the most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in program history with the 26th of his career.
After another lengthy drive, Kentucky was forced to settle for a field goal early in the second quarter. The UT defense stiffened with a huge stop on third-and-goal from its own 1-yard line as Corey Vereen stuffed Snell for a 1-yard loss. After a delay of game penalty, MacGinnis split the uprights from 25 yards out to cut the deficit to one.
Tennessee responded by going right down the field again on its next possession, this time primarily through the air, for its second straight touchdown drive. Dobbs found Josh Malone for an 18-yard gain on third-and-6 and completed a screen pass to Tyler Byrd that he took 44 yards down the sideline to the UK 13-yard line. A couple plays later, Dobbs hit Ethan Wolf over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown pass to extend the Vols’ lead to eight midway through the second quarter.
Dobbs accounted for all three of the Vols’ touchdowns in the first half and finished with 126 yards passing and 64 yards rushing as UT led 21-13 at the break. Kamara also had a strong half with 59 yards rushing on just six carries in his first game back since getting hurt against Alabama last month.
The Wildcats scored on their first drive of the second half on MacGinnis’ third field goal of the afternoon, this one from 33 yards out. Williams broke off a 39-yard run on the first play of the half to move Kentucky in Tennessee territory before the drive stalled out in the red zone.
UT need just five plays to go 92 yards on its opening drive of the second half. The Vols dove into their bag of trick plays as Malone hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs on a flea-flicker to make it 28-16.
The UT defense forced its second turnover of the game as UK was threatening score late in the third quarter. Cornerback Stephen Griffin knocked the ball loose from Snell at the Tennessee 4-yard line and LaTroy Lewis recovered the fumble to give the ball back to the Volunteers’ red-hot offense.
The offense didn’t take long to convert the turnover into points, going 96 yards in only six plays to increase the lead to 19 with just over three minutes to go in the quarter. Kamara finished the drive with a weaving 17-yard touchdown run to make it 35-16.
A long touchdown run by Jojo Kemp gave the Wildcats some life early in the fourth quarter. The senior running back took a handoff 71 yards to the house to cut the Tennessee lead to 13 with over 12 minutes to play. UK’s 2-point conversion attempt to make it an 11-point game failed.
Dobbs answered Kemp with a long touchdown run of his own to pump the lead back up to 20 points. Dobbs took a QB keeper off right tackle and outraced the Kentucky defenders to the checkerboards for his fifth total touchdown and second rushing score of the afternoon. The 45-yard scamper gave Dobbs a season-high in rushing yards and marked his fifth-career 100-yard rushing game. He finished with 147 yards rushing for the game.
Kamara’s second touchdown run of the afternoon with 7:12 to go all but put the game away. The redshirt junior broke a couple of tackles on his 29-yard run to the end zone to make it 49-22 Vols. The Wildcats added a pair of late scores on touchdown runs by Sihiem King and Johnson to account for the final score.
Micah Abernathy led the defense with 10 total tackles while Vereen finished with three tackles for loss, including two of Tennessee’s four sacks. Derek Barnett also added to his SEC-leading sack total with his 10th of the year. He is now just two sacks shy of tying Reggie White’s program record of 32.0.
Couretsy: University of Tennessee Athletics