Wildcats Drop Halloween Contest to Vols

Kentucky’s football team fell Saturday night while hosting Tennessee in a 52-21 decision inside The New Commonwealth Stadium, as the Volunteers used four touchdowns in the third quarter to clinch the game.  With the setback, UK’s record drops to 4-4 (2-4 Southeastern Conference), while UT advances to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in league competition.

Patrick Towles led the offense for the Wildcats, connecting on 16-of-33 passing attempts for 184 yards and one touchdown along with one interception.  He also added a rushing score in the second quarter. Mikel Horton was the only other UK player to put up more than 100 yards of offense, recording a career-high 109 yards rushing on 14 carries, with a career-long rush of 21 yards.  

For Kentucky’s defense, Marcus McWilson matched his career best of 10 tackles to go along with the first solo sack of his career.  Mike Edwards also had a career night, making eight stops for the Wildcats.  

Josh Dobbs was the offensive leader for the Volunteers, with 233 yards of offense and two touchdowns on 16-of-26 passing and registering an interception.  Dobbs spread out the offense evenly as the team had 249 rushing yards and 233 receiving yards, with Josh Malone leading the receiving corps with 103 yards and one touchdown on four catches.

The UK defense shined on Tennessee’s opening possession, with McWilson paving the way for the team’s success. The junior safety first registered a pass breakup to force a third down for UT, and followed it up with a tremendous defensive effort that marked three career highs in one play.  McWilson notched the first solo sack of his career for a loss of 7 yards, which in turn resulted in his first forced fumble. The ball was picked up by C.J. Johnson on the UK 23-yard line and the defensive tackle tore off in a dead sprint toward the UT end zone, shaking off the hot pursuit of the Volunteers for a 77-yard touchdown.  

Not only was it the first career touchdown for Johnson, but it was also the first time that the Wildcats had a fumble recovery for a touchdown since Nov. 29, 2014, when Mike Douglas had a 30-yard fumble return for a score against Louisville.

Tennessee retaliated shortly thereafter, with Dobbs running in a 28-yard rush for a touchdown to equalize the score at 7-7 with 2:45 remaining in the opening quarter.

Another defensive display prevented Tennessee from reaching the end zone in the start of the second quarter.  Johnson added another line to his career stats with a forced fumble, a first for the senior while donning the Blue and White. Johnson’s play pushed the UT offense back to third-and-12, and when the Vols were unable to convert on the third down, they made a 44-yard field goal to take the three-point lead, 10-7.

Kentucky was able to swing the lead to a 14-10 advantage, penetrating the red zone after Towles had a 21-yard scamper to break out of fourth-and-5.  With a 6-yard lob to CJ Conrad, the Wildcats earned a first-and-goal but quickly found themselves at fourth down once more.  Towles took charge again, with a 1-yard scramble that would land him in the end zone for a score.  

However, the ensuing 13 seconds would see the lead change again after a 75-yard pass from Dobbs found its way into the hands of Malone.  Tennessee put more points up to close out the half, fueled by a 63-yard rush by Alvin Kamara that set Dobbs up for a 1-yard rush for a touchdown. 

The Volunteers started off the second half with a pair of touchdowns within five minutes, both courtesy of Jalen Hurd. He first caught a 37-yard pass and later ran in a 4-yard carry following a 26-yard interception return by Darrin Kirkland. 

Kentucky found a way to break through the UT defense, scoring in just four plays and traversing 75 yards of the field. Horton started things off with an 18-yard carry, and Towles delivered into the hands of Dorian Baker off a 13-yard pass.  He then found Garrett Johnson open for the touchdown, matching his previous season-long with Johnson of 39 yards.  

Tennessee saw two more touchdowns courtesy of its special teams to bring the score to 52-21 with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter.  Evan Berry first had a kickoff return of 100 yards, followed by Cameron Sutton’s 84-yard punt return.

The score remained locked in for the remainder of the contest, as neither team was able to score at the end of the third quarter or the entirety of the fourth quarter.