Tennessee breezes past overmatched Western Carolina 55-10
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) For the second straight week, Tennessee grabbed a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
This time, the Volunteers had no trouble staying in front.
Alvin Kamara became the first Tennessee player in 40 years to score on a punt return and a run from scrimmage in the same game Saturday as the Volunteers breezed to a 55-10 victory over Football Championship Subdivision program Western Carolina.
Tennessee, which travels to Florida next week for its SEC opener, bounced back from a heartbreaking 31-24 overtime loss to Oklahoma in which the Vols squandered a 17-0 advantage. That marked Tennessee's largest blown lead ever in a home loss.
''It was a big game for us to see how we would respond,'' Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. ''I thought our competitive character was challenged a little bit in how we prepared this week and how we'd come out in our approach to this game.''
Tennessee (2-1) got some inspiration from the presence of Kansas City Chiefs defensive back and former Tennessee star Eric Berry, who returned to his alma mater and watched his younger brother overcome a sinus infection to score his first career touchdown on a spectacular 88-yard kickoff return.
Evan Berry bounced away from kicker Blake Metcalf and slipped out of the grasp of Western Carolina's A.J. McKoy at the Tennessee 35. He worked his way through traffic and raced down the right sideline to become the first Vol to score on a kickoff return since Cordarrelle Patterson in 2012 against Mississippi State.
''I give my best every game, but knowing that he was coming, I just tried to make something happen,'' Evan Berry said. ''And it happened, so it was a great feeling.''
Berry said his older brother congratulated him afterward.
''He talked a little trash and said he would have caught me,'' Berry said. ''I denied it.''
Kamara scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and a 50-yard punt return in the third period. The last Tennessee player to score on a punt return and a run from scrimmage in the same game was Stanley Morgan in 1975 against Maryland.
Tennessee hadn't scored on a kickoff return and a punt return in the same game since 1950 in a 27-20 victory over Washington & Lee.
The Vols grabbed a 41-3 halftime lead by outscoring Western Carolina 31-3 in the second quarter. That represented Tennessee's highest-scoring quarter since a 35-point first period in a 63-20 victory over Arkansas in 2000.
Tennessee has scored 138 points this season, its highest total over its first three games since the 1914 team compiled 171 points in its first three contests.
After going 13 of 31 against Oklahoma, Joshua Dobbs completed 12 of his first 13 attempts Saturday with touchdown passes to Preston Williams and Jalen Hurd. Williams, a freshman who hadn't caught a pass in Tennessee's first two games, had three catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.
Dobbs went 15 of 21 for 144 yards before resting the entire second half.
The Catamounts (1-2) had three turnovers and only one first down on their first eight possessions. One of those turnovers resulted in a 57-yard interception return by Tennessee's LaDarrell McNeil in his first game since coming back from what Vols coach Butch Jones had called ''neck instability.''
''Offensively we just put ourselves in a bad, bad situation,'' Western Carolina coach Mark Speir said. ''When you turn the ball over against any team, much less an SEC opponent, they're going to make you pay.''
Western Carolina's Detrez Newsome rushed for 128 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown.
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