The Tennessee Volunteers shook off a sluggish start to beat Virginia Tech 45-24 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The game, billed as the “biggest game in college football” lived up to it’s name as a new record of 156,990 people were in attendance, shattering the old record of 115,109 set in 2013 between Michigan and Notre Dame.
Tennessee found themselves down by 14 early before opening the second quarter with a fumble recovery and a spectacular touchdown grab by former Blackman High School standout, Jauan Jennings. The touchdown, coming on the first play from scrimmage after the turnover, swung all the momentum to Tennessee and allowed them to shift gears and go on a 45-3 tear before taking their foot off the gas and putting in their backups. The Hokies would add another score with 3:28 left to cut the deficit to three scores, but would not score again.
When asked what changed that allowed the offensive line to find a rhythm and get the offense going, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones had this to say:
“Well we had some individuals that earned some playing time through their individual reps during practice this week, and (former Oakland standout) Jack Jones was one of those. Again we’re just looking for a spark, looking for some combinations up front. I’ll know a little bit more when I get back and watch the video. Again, I thought our players really stepped up, we were able to run the football, but it was something that they earned playing time through their course and week in preparation.” — UT Athletics
After a less than impressive opener against Appalachian State, Tennessee’s offense had more of the explosive plays that one would expect to see from the preseason 9th ranked team. The Vols rushed for 239 yards as a unit and while the passing game was a pedestrian 10 of 19 for 91 yards, they saw three of those 10 catches find the end zone.
Defensively, the Volunteers recorded three sacks and forced five fumbles, three by sophomore Micah Abernathy which is a school record. This gave the Tennessee offense many short fields and led to 21 points off turnovers alone.
Dating back to last season, this was the eighth straight victory to give Tennessee their longest winning streak since 1998-1999 when they rattled off 14 in a row. It is also the third longest active streak in the county.