The Tennessee Volunteers created seven turnovers, including five in six plays, en route to a 52-20 victory over Western Kentucky on a picturesque Saturday afternoon in Knoxville.
Tennessee, who fell behind 3-0 early in the game, had an incredible span in the first quarter where they intercepted the ball three times and recovered two fumbles, all within six Western Kentucky offensive plays.
Western Kentucky got some momentum going early when they converted two early third downs, but had to settle for a field goal on the game’s opening drive. On the Vols ensuing drive, the Hilltoppers managed to keep the Vols from crossing midfield, forcing them to punt.
The next Western Kentucky drive is where the turnover madness began. After Western Kentucky had picked up a first down on an Antonio Andrews run, Vols defensive back Justin Coleman picked off Brandon Doughty’s pass and returned it 23 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
On the Hilltopper’s second play of the next drive, true freshman Cameron Sutton picked off Doughty and took it 36 yards to the endzone, putting the Vols up 14-3.
The very next play ran by the Hilltoppers (after the kickoff) saw Dontavis Sapp force and recover a fumble. After a Michael Palardy field goal, Max Arnold recovered a Antonio Andrews fumble. One Rajion Neal touchdown later and the Vols found themselves back on defense, and immediately forced another turnover with a Brent Brewer interception.
The five turnovers on five consecutive series’ was the most since Florida forced seven turnovers on seven consecutive series’ in 1972 against Florida State.
However, there was much more to this game than the flurry of turnovers in the first quarter.
Western Kentucky was definitely an outmatched team, but they exploited the Vol’s run defense and pass defense in flashes. Hilltoppers running back Antonio Andrews gashed the Vols for 111 yards on 13 carries. Brandon Doughty added 222 passing yards, including a long of 43.
Tennessee struggled at times to move the ball in the first half. Quarterback Justin Worley had some problems with accuracy and the offense, in general, looked out of sync.
Worley looked much more confident in the second half, hitting Jonathon Johnson for a 37 yard gain on the half’s opening drive, which resulted in a one-yard Rajion Neal touchdown.
The junior quarterback finished the game 11-19 for 142 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Nathan Peterman got into the game late and didn’t attempt a pass.
Marlin Lane paced the rushing attack for the Vols, gaining 97 yards on 16 carries and scoring once. Neal added 74 yards on 15 carries, scoring three touchdowns.
The Vols didn’t spread the ball around quite as much last week, but they did have five receivers catch passes. Jonathon Johnson led the team with 57 receiving yards on two catches. True freshman Josh Smith added three receptions for 36 yards, while fellow true freshman Marquez North had two catches for 27 yards. Pig Howard and Jacob Carter each caught one pass.
Tight End Brendan Downs caught one pass, for a one-yard touchdown, The Vols’ only receiving touchdown on the day.
Worley was robbed, by his own teammate, of a possible long touchdown, when Jason Croom dropped a pass with no defenders in front of him, late in the first half.
Overall Butch Jones was pleased with the win, saying “We knew it was going to be a battle”. Jones was particularly happy with the Vols rushing attack in the second half and wide receivers Jonathon Johnson and Josh Smith.
Jones said the team will of course enjoy this win, but added “I think we all know what’s in store next week”.
Butch perhaps put it best when he stated “Somebody said this is the most challenging schedule in the history of college football”. While that’s up for debate, there’s no doubt the coaching staff is fixing to face some large obstacles. Next up is a visit to Eugene, to take on the Oregon Ducks.
- Curt Maggitt was “close” to playing
- Jones anticipates having Jacques Smith back this week
- Jones said the team suffered “no new injuries” in the win over WKU
- The Vols committed their first penalty of the season with less than a minute to go in the first half. A penalty by Corey Miller.
- Vincent Dallas handled kick return duties and Jacob Carter handled punt return duties, with Devrin Young out.
- Cameron Sutton became the first true freshman to return an interception for a touchdown since Eric Berry
- The interceptions for Sutton, Justin Coleman and Brent Brewer were the first of each player’s career.
- LaDarrell McNeil led the team with 10 total tackles
- Announced attendance was 86,783 which was 11 thousand less than the opener (Student section was mostly empty)