No. 17/14 Tennessee drafted behind Virginia Tech in the first quarter before lapping the Hokies and emerging with a 45-24 win at the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The win came in front of 156,990 fans, the most to ever witness a college football game.
“We talked about focusing on the task at hand, playing a very good Virginia Tech football team, and football comes down to one on one battles,” Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones said. “I hope we have some good teaching tools to go back and how you focus on the task at hand. The game started very, very fast. I didn’t like the way we started, but again, I liked the end of it. We’ll have to learn how to have intensity for 60 minutes and not have lulls. That’ll be a point of contention that we’ll work on through next week as well.”
On the first play of the second quarter, Virginia Tech (1-1) quarterback Jerod Evans mishandled the snap as the Hokies tried to run an end-around. Sophomore Micah Abernathy jumped on the first of his Tennessee-record three fumble recoveries at the five-yard line, flipping momentum in the Vols’ favor after they had fallen behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
“It was absolutely critical,” Jones said. “Football is game of momentum, and when you get momentum from a turnover, the defense’s goal is to hold you to three points, and for us, we have to go score seven and grab the momentum when we’re able to do that, and I thought that was big for us.”
UT (2-0) scored on the next play as Joshua Dobbs floated a pass to Jauan Jennings on the right side of the end zone, bringing the score to 14-7 and kick-starting a 45-3 run en route to victory lane.
Dobbs started Tennessee’s next drive with a 40-yard run on a quarterback draw. Two plays later, he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Josh Malone to complete a four-play, 90-yard drive. Medley added a field goal on the Vols’ next possession to put them in the driver’s seat at 17-14.
The Vols scored on all four of their offensive possessions in the second quarter. Dobbs punctuated the comeback with a five-yard draw with 39 seconds left in the half. That run capped a 24-0 second quarter, which put the Vols up 10 entering halftime.
The Vols extended their lead to 31-14 in the third quarter as Dobbs spun out of a tackle, rolled to his left and found Alvin Kamara open for a 23-yard touchdown pass.
Dobbs added a 27-yard weaving touchdown run and John Kelly chipped in a four-yard touchdown plunge to put the Vols up 45-17.
Virginia Tech had opened the game with a 14-0 advantage after Evans found Sam Rogers out of the backfield for a seven-yard touchdown pass. Travon McMillian added a 69-yard touchdown run for the Hokies as he was able to get around the left edge and down the sideline to punctuate the first quarter. Virginia Tech outgained UT 204-28 and had nine first downs to the Vols’ one after the opening stanza.