LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Tennessee took an indirect route to produce its typical rout of Kentucky.
Joshua Dobbs accounted for four touchdowns and Tennessee scored on both a kickoff return and punt return Saturday in a 52-21 blowout that continued the Volunteers’ domination of this annual series.
”Our kids responded,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. ”They’ve been resilient. They just do whatever you ask of them.”
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Tennessee (4-4, 2-3 SEC) has won 30 of its last 31 meetings with Kentucky (4-4, 2-4). The Wildcats’ lone victory during that stretch was a 10-7 decision in 2011.
A busy weekend sports schedule in Kentucky forced Tennessee to get creative with its itinerary for this road trip. Because Lexington was hosting both this game and the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday, there weren’t enough available local hotel rooms for the Volunteers.
Tennessee spent Friday night in Cincinnati, about 80 miles north of Kentucky’s campus. The Vols held a walk-through Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium – the Cincinnati Bengals’ home field – before driving back to Lexington.
Their indirect route to the game didn’t bother the Vols. After briefly falling behind 14-10 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Tennessee outscored Kentucky 42-7 over a span of 15 minutes.
”We were just controlling the things that we can control,” Dobbs said. ”We can’t really control the bus ride, where we stay, all that stuff. But we can control how we come out and play football, and we did that well tonight.”
Dobbs was 16 of 26 for 233 yards with one interception and two touchdown passes, including a 75-yard pass to Josh Malone that put Tennessee ahead for good late in the second quarter. He also rushed for 51 yards and two scores.
Evan Berry scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and Cam Sutton reached the end zone on an 84-yard punt return in the third quarter. Berry has three touchdowns on kickoff returns this year to tie Willie Gault’s 35-year-old school single-season record.
”I’m not surprised at all,” said Berry, who celebrated Halloween by wearing a gorilla mask as he entered the postgame interview room. ”Just knowing how hard we work on that particular special teams unit and just knowing that my guys have got my back and I have theirs as well, I’m not surprised.”
That marked the second time this season Tennessee scored on a punt return and kickoff return in the same game. Berry had an 88-yard kickoff return and Alvin Kamara scored on a 50-yard punt return in a 55-10 victory over Western Carolina.
Kentucky’s Mikel Horton rushed for 109 yards, while Patrick Towles was 16 of 33 for 184 yards with a touchdown pass, an interception and a touchdown run. The Wildcats lost leading rusher Boom Williams to an elbow injury in the second quarter.
”It was not very good football,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. ”It’s not acceptable. It’s not OK.”
Jalen Hurd scored on a 37-yard reception and a 4-yard run for Tennessee. On the touchdown reception, Hurd actually caught the pass about 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage before weaving his way into the end zone.
Tennessee outgained Kentucky 144-2 in the first quarter, though the score was tied 7-all at the end of the period because of C.J. Johnson’s 77-yard fumble return. Johnson – a 300-pound defensive tackle – picked up a loose ball and scampered to the end zone after Marcus McWilson sacked Dobbs and forced a fumble.
After getting just one first down on its first three possessions, Kentucky pulled back ahead 14-10 with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that featured two fourth-down conversions, including Towles’ 1-yard touchdown keeper on fourth-and-goal.