Tennessee used a three-headed rushing attack of Joshua Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and John Kelly to wear down Kentucky defensively en route to a 49-36 win Saturday.
The win, which kept Tennessee in the race for the SEC East division crown, was a pleasant turn of events after the Vols’ offensive line struggled in losses to South Carolina and Alabama.
“I thought we played very complementary football,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said after the game. “I believe we only had five third downs the entire game, which means you’re winning first downs, mixed downs, first and second down.”
After a slow start that saw the Vols go down 7-0, Tennessee turned to Dobbs to tie things up. The senior quarterback found a wide open Josh Smith in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After the Wildcats kicked a field goal, Dobbs and Kelly combined for 55 rushing yards in a drive that ended in a one-yard Dobbs rushing touchdown. The rushing score, which was the 26th of Dobbs’ career, gave him the most rushing touchdowns for a quarterback in Tennessee history.
From that point on, the fight was in the trenches.
Tennessee’s offensive line took a hit in the first quarter when starting center Dylan Wiesman left the game with a lower leg injury, but the offense didn’t miss a beat without him.
On the Vols’ next offensive drive, Dobbs connected with Josh Malone, Tyler Byrd and Ethan Wolf for 72 yards en route to another score, which put Tennessee up 21-13 before halftime.
“Our offensive line really provided a clean pocket,” Jones said. “(Dobbs) could sit in the home position, and then Josh obviously delivered the throws.”
After taking that 21-13 lead into the half, the Vols took to the races in the second half.
Tennessee scored two touchdowns on two offensive possessions to open the third quarter. The Vols used a steady dose of runs from Kelly and Kamara to offset Dobbs’ success in the passing game and moved down the field with ease against a depleted Wildcat defense, which played without leading tackler Jordan Jones and defensive back Chris Westry in the second half.
Kentucky tried to make things interesting with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but the Vols extended their lead to 45-22 on a 45-yard rushing touchdown from Dobbs. Kamara scored the Vols’ final touchdown on Tennessee’s next offensive possession to ice any comeback hopes the Wildcats had.
Tennessee rushed for 376 yards, a season high. Dobbs and Kamara rushed for 147 and 128 yards, respectively, and Kelly added 94 yards of his own.
The win leaves Tennessee a game behind Florida in the SEC East race. The Gators take on LSU next week in a game that was originally scheduled for Oct. 8, but was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. If Florida loses, Tennessee can win out to clinch its first SEC East title since 2007.
Tennessee takes on Missouri next Saturday in Knoxville.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Sumner Gilliam
Nathan is a junior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He spends most of his free time eating meaningless foods and watching sports. If you wish to contact Nathan, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter, @NathanOdom11.