No. 17 Tennessee wins in front of record crowd

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[September 12, 2016]  BRISTOL, Tenn. -- For Tennessee coach Butch Jones, this one was special.

"We talk to the players all the time about leaving a legacy," he said.

And the 17th-ranked Volunteers certainly made some memories while taking strides toward being the team they want to be Saturday night, overcoming a rocky start in the Battle of Bristol as they routed mistake-prone Virginia Tech 45-24 in front of the largest crowd in football history.

As 156,990 fans watched at Bristol Motor Speedway in a game 20 years in the making, Tennessee (2-0) was outgained 204-28 in the first quarter and trailed 14-0. A predominantly orange-clad crowd was quiet, their team resembling a car that wrecked on the first turn in the first lap.

Then the Hokies started hitting the wall because they couldn't hang on to the ball. And at the same time, Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs started making plays with his arm and legs.

Jerod Evans' botched handoff on the second quarter's first play led to a fumble that Micah Abernathy recovered at the Tech 5. Dobbs hit Jauan Jennings on a fade pattern on the next play and Tennessee was on the board 17 seconds into the quarter.

That started an avalanche of 31 straight Vols points that followed a familiar template: The defense got the ball to the offense, normally in prime position, and Dobbs cashed in with big plays.

Aside from a 90-yard drive that led to Tennessee's tying touchdown, Dobbs' 38-yard pass to Josh Malone, the Vols went 58 yards or less on five of their other six scoring drives. Three touchdowns occurred after lost fumbles, and an 11-yard punt that rolled backward 25 yards after hitting Tennessee's Malik Foreman set it up at the Hokies' 23 for a field goal.

Tech (1-1) lost five fumbles, giving it a whopping nine in the first two games of coach Justin Fuente's regime. It also mixed in eight penalties for 101 yards, committing two penalties on two separate plays.

"We turned the ball over too many times and we weren't so disciplined at other times," Fuente said. "Obviously, we have to do a better job of teaching or emphasizing ball security, because it's inadequate right now."

Dobbs rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, setting the program's career record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,431. He also threw for 91 yards and three more scores on 10-of-19 accuracy.

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His 5-yard run off a planned draw with 39 seconds left in the first half gave the Vols a 24-14 halftime lead. Midway through the third quarter, Dobbs ripped off a 31-yard run to break Jimmy Streater's previous school mark of 1,374 rushing yards by a quarterback. That set up a 23-yard scoring strike to Alvin Kamara.

Dobbs landed the kill shot with a 27-yard run in the fourth quarter to make it 38-17, inspiring Tennessee fans to chant "SEC, SEC."

"We showed perseverance and resiliency," Jones said. "We didn't get off to the start we wanted to, but we woke up a little bit and played Tennessee-style football."

Evans completed 20 of 28 passes for 214 yards, playing effectively early as the Hokies moved up and down the field at will. He found Sam Rogers for a 7-yard touchdown pass that initiated scoring at the 4:32 mark of the first quarter.

Travon McMillian, who led all rushers with 127 yards on 14 attempts, ripped off a 69-yard burst off left tackles to make it 14-0 at the 2:48 mark. At that point, Tech owned a 193-6 advantage in total yards.

But the Hokies' tendency for crippling errors helped the Vols gain traction. Tech managed only 196 yards after the first quarter, Tennessee's front seven generating a spate of lost-yardage plays.

Meanwhile, the Vols did one basic thing, according to Dobbs.

"It was a matter of being patient," he said. "Their defense changed up their looks, but our defense gave us great field position all night."

NOTES: Before Saturday night, the teams' last meeting was in the 2009 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, a 37-14 Virginia Tech win that capped Lane Kiffin's only season as Tennessee coach. ... There was plenty of star power at the coin toss as Peyton Manning represented the Volunteers while Bruce Smith and Frank Beamer repped the Hokies. ... Tennessee DE Jonathan Kongbo (ankle/foot) left in the first quarter but was able to return.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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