Tennessee seized momentum in the second quarter and the Vols broke away with third-quarter touchdown returns by Evan Berry and Cameron Sutton to defeat SEC rival Kentucky, 52-21, on Saturday at The New Commonwealth Stadium.
“I thought it was a very complete game,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. “We challenged our football team all week long. This has to be a game of complimentary football. We had to play complimentary football and really complement each other in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. We were able to do it. I thought our team showed some maturity on the road.”
Tennessee’s (4-4, 2-3 SEC) 52 points on the night were the Vols’ most in an SEC game since a 52-14 win over Ole Miss on Nov. 13, 2010. UT was up 38-21 with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter when Berry took a kickoff back 100 yards for a score. Sutton followed that shortly after with an 84-yard punt return to the end zone.
UT has now won 30 of its last 31 games against Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC). The Vols expanded their lead in the all-time series to 78-24-9.
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs was 16-of-26 for 233 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and also ran for 51 yards and two scores on seven carries. Jalen Hurd hat 18 carries for 61 yards and one rushing touchdown and a 37-yard touchdown catch. Josh Malone caught four passes for a career-high 103 yards and one touchdown.
The Vols outscored the Wildcats, 42-7, over a 15-minute span in the second and third quarters. UT had 482 yards of offense to UK’s 349.
The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead seven minutes in when Marcus McWilson stripped the ball from Dobbs and Corey Johnson returned the fumble 77 yards to the end zone.
Two possessions later, Dobbs led the Vols 44 yards down the field in five plays and he capped the drive with a tackle-breaking 28-yard touchdown run down the left sideline to tie the game at 7-7. The score marked the 15th rushing touchdown of Dobbs’ career, breaking a tie with Heath Shuler for third-most by a quarterback in Tennessee history.
The Vols took the lead when Aaron Medley connected on a 44-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Kentucky pulled back in front, 14-10, with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Patrick Towles with 5:39 remaining in the first half.
Tennessee took command of the game in the second quarter, scoring 14 points in the final six minutes of the first half. After Towles touchdown, the Vols needed just one play to retake the lead. Dobbs connected with Malone down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown strike.
On UT’s next possession, Alvin Kamara broke loose down the left sideline for a 63-yard gain (the Vols’ longest run of the season) to set up a one-yard Dobbs touchdown run to give Tennessee a 24-14 lead at the half.
The Vols had 327 yards to Kentucky’s 117 yards by halftime.
Hurd added two more Tennessee touchdowns early in the third quarter to push Tennessee’s lead to 38-14. On UT’s opening drive of the second half, he navigated through traffic on a 37-yard catch and serpentine run to the end zone. Darrin Kirkland Jr. intercepted Towles on UK’s ensuing possession and returned the ball to the UK four-yard line to set up Hurd for a four-yard touchdown run.
Kentucky pulled to within 38-21 the next time the Wildcats had the ball. Towles hit Garrett Johnson for a 39-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline.
Tennessee grew its lead to 52-21 with the two big special teams plays. Berry’s 100-yard kickoff return touchdown up the left sideline marked his third touchdown of the season, tying Willie Gault’s 1980 Tennessee record for kickoff return touchdowns in a season. Berry is the fifth Vol to return a kick 100 yards and the first since Leonard Scott against Georgia in 1999.
After the Vols’ defense held Kentucky’s next possession to just 14 yards, Sutton returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown to give Tennessee its third game with 50 or more points this season. The punt return was the longest of his career and his second return for a score. His last punt return touchdown was a 76-yarder againt Vanderbilt in 2014.
The Vols will next host South Carolina on Nov. 7 at Neyland Stadium. The game will be televised on SEC Network with kickoff slated for 4 p.m. ET.