Battle at Bristol shows Vols are capable of elite play

After a slow start, Tennessee bounced back to run through the Virginia Tech Hokies, 45-24. The response showed the country just what the Vols can do.

Photo by Sumner Gilliam

Jalen Reeves-Maybin celebrates after "Battle at Bristol" victory

After falling behind early, Tennessee took advantage of its opportunities and rallied to show the nation what the Vols are capable of.

A record-breaking 156,990 football fans flocked to Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday to see Tennessee take on Virginia Tech. The sheer number of people — plus the contest being played on a NASCAR track infield — created an environment as interesting as the game itself.

The first half was largely a tale of two quarters. Virginia Tech started off fast, racking up 116 total yards on the way to two scores while Tennessee struggled to move the chains.

The Vols recorded -2 yards in the first 11 minutes of action and suffered through three straight three-and-outs. The first quarter seemed like one continuous Hokie drive, as Tennessee only spent 4:07 of the first 15 minutes with possession.

However, when the teams switched sides at the end of the quarter, everything changed.

Travon McMillian fumbled on the first play of the second quarter, and Tennessee recovered just five yards from Virginia Tech’s end zone.  The very next play, Josh Dobbs hooked up with Jauan Jennings on a jump ball in the back of the end zone for Tennessee’s first score of the game.

This score opened the floodgates for Tennessee. The Vols grabbed momentum and wouldn’t let it go.

Dobbs connected with Josh Malone a few series later on a 38-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. Dobbs also added a rushing touchdown right before halftime. These scores, along with an Aaron Medley field goal, gave Tennessee a 24-14 lead at halftime.

Josh Malone celebrates a 38-yard touchdown reception against Virginia Tech. Malone finished with two catches for 46 yards and one touchdown. Photo by Sumner Gilliam.

In the third quarter, Tennessee extended its lead to 17 when Alvin Kamara found the end zone for the first time this season on a 23-yard pass from Dobbs. That touchdown gave the Vols 31 unanswered points, and showcased their offensive weapons for the first time this season.

Dobbs set up deep passes with his ability to scramble, Hurd pulled off monster runs and made defenders miss and DeBord’s quick-tempo offense wore down Virginia Tech’s defense, just like it was designed to do.

The Vols went into the fourth quarter up 14, an uncomfortable situation for most fans due to Tennessee’s inability to close out games in the past. But, Jones and company were able to finish off the Hokies in dominant fashion, 45-24.

Dobbs threw for 91 yards and three touchdowns and also led the Vols in rushing with 106 yards on 14 carries. Jalen Hurd had 99 yards on 22 carries.

While playing on a racetrack was a unique experience for Tennessee, they were all business Saturday, putting confidence in fans again after a poor week one performance.

The Vols will now face the Bobcats of Ohio, who visit Neyland stadium at noon on Saturday.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam