KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee and Kentucky combined for more than 1,200 yards of offense Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium, the Vols coming out on top 49-36.
Tennessee (7-3, 3-3 SEC) kept its SEC East Division hopes alive with the victory, keeping pace with Florida (7-2, 5-2), which beat South Carolina 20-7.
The Vols can win the SEC East Division and play in the league title game with wins over Missouri and Vanderbilt the next two weeks AND a Gators’ loss at LSU next Saturday.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs led Saturday’s offensive onslaught, completing 11 of 17 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
Tailback Alvin Kamara, who returned after missing the past two games with a knee injury, had 128 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries for the Vols. John Kelly finished with 94 yards on 16 carries.
The Wildcats (5-5, 4-4) out-gained Tennessee 635 yards to 599, rushing for an eye-popping 443 yards with Stanley “Boom” Williams leading the way (16 carries, 127 yards). The Vols surrendered 8.1 yards per rush to Kentucky.
Tennessee held a 21-13 lead after a sloppy first half, the difference being its offensive and defensive efficiency in the Red Zone.
The Wildcats (5-5, 4-4) settled for a field goal on their opening drive of the second half, too, and Tennessee made Kentucky pay on its ensuing possession.
The Vols drove 92 yards on five plays, scoring on a trick play when John Kelly took a handoff from Dobbs, pitched the ball back to the QB, and Dobbs lofted a 49-yard TD strike to Josh Malone to make it 28-16.
Tennessee led by double digits for the remainder of the game.
The Vols return to action next Saturday with a 3:30 p.m. home game against Missouri.
Five things learned
• This is an injury-prone Tennessee team. On Saturday, safety Todd Kelly Jr. left the game with an injury along with offensive lineman Dylan Wiesman and linebacker Daniel Bituli.
• Cornerback Cam Sutton is a fast healer, returning to the starting lineup and playing well after suffering a fractured ankle on Sept. 17 against Ohio.
• Kamara can run effectively with a large knee brace. Kamara broke off a 39-yard run and scored on runs of 29 and 17 yards.
• Receiver Jauan Jennings does indeed have defensive back skills. Jennings came down with an interception on Kentucky’s Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
• Tennessee misses Evan Berry in the kick return game. Berry was averaging 32.9 yards per return this season, second in the country. The Vols averaged 17 yards on five kick returns against Kentucky.
• Kentucky fumbled at the Tennessee 4-yard line with 5:41 left in their quarter, committed a personal foul, and the Vols responded with six-play, 96-yard TD drive to go up 35-16.
• .The Vols’ players remain engaged and on track to finish strong, despite all of the injuries and attrition this season.
• Can Tennessee beef up its run defense enough to become a contender this season?
• Kentucky entered the game 5-0 when it rushed for 200 yards or more, but the Wildcats rushed for 443 yards and lost.
What it means
• Tennessee remains in contention for the SEC East Division and a trip to the SEC title game, the team’s primary goal this season