1. 2016: Tennessee beats Virginia Tech 45-24 in the Battle at Bristol
The game meant even more in hindsight than it did at the time. That’s not because Tennessee football didn’t have a disappointing season in 2016. They did. However, it did turn out that the game featured two very good teams on the year.
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Add in all the ambiance, including the fact that it was the largest crowd ever to witness an American football game and that it was played in a location equidistant between the two schools, and you couldn’t have asked for a better setting. The Vols and Virginia Tech Hokies showed they should be a yearly rivalry after this one.
Heading into the game, Butch Jones team had struggled to beat the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Meanwhile, nobody had faith in Virginia Tech their first year under Justin Fuente. What people didn’t realize was that Fuente is an offensive genius and struck gold with junior college transfer Jerod Evans to run his offense.
The result was a red-hot start. Virginia Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But the Vols rebounded by forcing a second quarter turnover that got them going on offense. They reeled off 24 straight points in the second quarter and 31 straight overall to go up 31-14. In addition to the big offensive plays, the defense forced five turnovers on the day.
As a result, UT flat-out dominated. They won 45-24 and had fans everywhere excited. By going 10-4 on the year and winning the ACC Coastal, Virginia Tech proved they were a good team, so this was a quality win for Tennessee football. Combine that with the history of the crows, and this was clearly the greatest neutral site regular season game in UT history.