BRISTOL - The Tennessee Vols overwhelmed the Virginia Tech Hokies with an unanswered 31-point scoring spree Saturday and won the Battle at Bristol 45-24.
No. 17 Tennessee persevered through a rough first quarter and won at the Bristol Motor Speedway in front of 156,990 fans, the all-time record for a college football crowd. The Vols have won eight straight games.
In Justin Fuente’s second game as Virginia Tech head coach, the Hokies struck first on their second drive of the game. Junior quarterback Jerod Evans connected with Sam Rogers for a seven-yard touchdown to cap a 62-yard drive. Tech would extend its lead to 14-0 on an explosive 69-yard run by Travon McMillian.
The Vols responded to open the second quarter when they forced a fumble recovered by sophomore defensive back Micah Abernathy. Abernathy set a Tennessee record with three fumble recoveries in Saturday's win. Tennessee won the turnover battle against Virginia Tech 5-1.
Jones said Abernathy has great instincts around the football, and is turning into a leader on Tennessee's defense.
The Vols have forced a turnover in four straight games and 28 of their last 32 games. UT has forced 70 turnovers since head coach Butch Jones took over the team, ranking third in the SEC during that timeframe.
Photo Gallery: Photos from the game action at the Battle at Bristol
Quarterback Josh Dobbs threw a touchdown pass to Juaun Jennings on the very next play, putting the Vols within a touchdown, 14-7. It started a streak of 31 unanswered points for the Vols.
Momentum kept swinging the Vols’ way when Josh Dobbs took off for a 40-yard run early in the second quarter. On the same drive, Dobbs connected with wide receiver Josh Malone – one of the Appalachian State game’s heroes – for a 38-yard touchdown pass, tying the game.
Aaron Medley kicked a 34-yard field goal to put the Vols up 17-14 with 5:35 left in the first half. Dobbs tacked on a touchdown on a QB draw shortly before the half, putting the Vols up by 10 points.
Redshirt junior running back Alvin Kamara added his first touchdown of the 2016 season on a 23-yard pass from Dobbs in the third quarter, capping a run of 31 unanswered points.
After a 26-yard Virginia Tech field goal in the third quarter, Dobbs put it away for good with a 27-yard touchdown run with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter. Dobbs threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more scores.
"I thought Josh Dobbs did a great job," Jones said after the game.
Jones-led teams are 61-5 (.924) when leading at halftime, good for 13th among coaches since 2007.
Butch Jones-coached teams are 60-5 (.923) when leading at halftime. pic.twitter.com/y28EPiJVoo— WBIR Sports (@WBIRSports) September 11, 2016
Saturday's win marked Jones' first victory as Tennessee's coach against a Power 5 opponent in the month of August or September. As Tennessee's coach, Jones is now 1-6 against Power 5 opponents in August and September.
With Saturday’s win, the Vols extended their all-time series lead over the Hokies, 6-3. The Vols hold at least a .500 record against all ACC opponents except Pittsburgh.
The Vols improved to 4-0 at neutral site games under Jones. UT is 39-16 in neutral site games played in the state of Tennessee.
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(© 2016 WBIR)