It wasn’t the type of blowout you expected, but the Vols were able to beat Kentucky 49-36 in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon to improve their standing in the SEC East title race. The game wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate because Kentucky tacked on two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter.
Both teams racked up ridiculous totals on offense, but the Vols were able to stop Kentucky when it mattered most, and Tennessee was just a point away from dropping 50 points on the Wildcats for the third consecutive year.
Here are the five observations from Tennessee’s fifth-straight win over Kentucky.
A Better Start
For the first time all season, the Vols had a lead at halftime over an SEC opponent. And it could’ve been an even larger margin if not for some costly mistakes.
Tennessee held a 21-13 lead over Kentucky at the end of the first half, and if not for a few momentum-killing penalties and a Josh Dobbs interception on Tennessee’s last possession of the half, they could’ve had a larger lead. Kentucky’s offense started out hot, scoring on just two plays that totaled 85 yards on their first possession. But after that, the Vols were able to limit the damage the Wildcats did in the first half, at least in the scoring department.
The Vols piled up 289 yards of offense in the first half and averaged 8.4 yards per play.
Run, Run, and Run Some More
Both teams ran all over the yard on Saturday, combining to rush for 819 yards in the game. Tennessee had two players (Josh Dobbs, Alvin Kamara) run for over 100 yards, and John Kelly finished six yards shy of 100 yards himself. Kentucky had five different players run the ball for 443 yards and four scores.
Tennessee’s 376 rushing yards against Kentucky is their highest rushing total on the season so far. Their previous high was 282 yards against Texas A&M.
Both running back Alvin Kamara and cornerback Cam Sutton returned to action for the Vols on Saturday, and both made their presence felt.
Kamara ripped off 128 rushing yards and added two scores as well. If not for Josh Dobbs’ 147 yards on the ground, Kamara would’ve led the team in rushing.
Cam Sutton also contributed in a big way to Tennessee’s win. Sutton broke up two passes in the game and became Tennessee’s all-time leader in career passes broken up with 26.
Kamara had missed the last two games for Tennessee while Sutton had been out of action since Ohio in the third game of the season.
Bad Field Position? No Problem
Tennessee consistently started with poor field position against Kentucky, but it didn’t matter against the Wildcats’ porous defense.
The Vols had scoring drives of 96, 92, 83, 79, and 75 yards against Kentucky. All of Tennessee’s scoring drives were longer than 58 yards, and the Vols piled up 599 yards of offense on just 59 offensive plays against a beleaguered Kentucky defense.
Josh Dobbs is the Kentucky Killer
If there’s one thing Josh Dobbs does well, it’s torch Kentucky.
In four career games against the Wildcats, Dobbs totaled 952 passing yards, 298 rushing yards, 10 passing touchdowns, and six rushing scores. Dobbs threw for 223 yards and three scores and ran for another 147 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday against Kentucky.
Sometimes players just have a team’s number. And Dobbs certainly had Kentucky’s in his career.