KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Neyland Stadium doubled as an infirmary for Kentucky on Saturday, but no injury hurt Kentucky more than losing Jordan Jones.
The sophomore linebacker leads the team in tackles, energy and just about every other recorded and unrecordable metric. Jones left in the first half with back spasms and wasn’t able to return.
Redshirt freshman Eli Brown, who’s played limited snaps, was called on in Jones’ place.
“(Jordan) gets all those reps in practice,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said after the game. “He’s got all those game reps. Eli went in and did some good things, but he doesn’t have the experience that Jordan has. He didn’t get as many reps in practice as Jordan.”
Jones led the SEC with 58 solo tackles coming into Knoxville. Kentucky wasn’t effective when he was on the field, but it all fell apart in the second half. The Wildcats gave up 599 yards and Volunteers quarterback Josh Dobbs accounted for 5 touchdowns.
Kentucky showed no signs of stopping Tennessee, and a handful of injuries didn’t help its chances. Starting cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Chris Westry missed extended time in the first half and linebacker Denzil Ware left the field at least twice during the game. Safety Blake McClain dealt with a bothersome ankle.
On the offensive side, receiver Jeff Badet missed much of the game.
“Definitely hurt,” coach Mark Stoops said of the injuries. “We know that going into it. (Tennessee) is banged up, but they’re physical as heck. They’re a big football team. They’re very big.”
Kentucky heads home to face Austin Peay at 4:30 p.m. ET next Saturday. A victory against the winless FCS side would put Kentucky in its first bowl game since 2010.