Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) looks for an open receiver during an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Tech, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
AP Photo
November 09, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs' eye-popping numbers against an overmatched opponent last week were most notable for what was missing.

For the first time all season, Dobbs didn't commit a single turnover in a game as Tennessee rolled to a 55-0 victory over Football Championship Subdivision program Tennessee Tech. He wants to carry that momentum Saturday as Tennessee (6-3, 2-3 SEC) hosts Kentucky (5-4, 4-3).

''It's just big for the team just to play a clean game, a very efficient game, the pass game, the run game,'' Dobbs said. ''We had big plays. We drove the ball efficiently on third down. Just overall the execution was high. It was great just to have an efficient game. We've got to play with that kind of efficiency to finish the season strong and be where we want to be.''

Turnovers have been an issue for Dobbs this year.

He has thrown 11 interceptions in nine games after being picked off just five times in 13 games last season. Dobbs threw five interceptions and lost three fumbles during a three-game losing streak. That included two interceptions and one fumble in a stunning 24-21 loss at South Carolina.

That's why it was important for Dobbs to avoid mistakes and play well last week, even if he was facing an FCS defense. Dobbs went 12 of 13 and threw three touchdown passes before leaving the game late in the second quarter.

''When you have an off week and you're able to follow it up with a really good week, it definitely feels good just to get back in a rhythm,'' Dobbs said.

Dobbs acknowledged he didn't play up to his standards against South Carolina, but he didn't let that performance carry over. His coaches marvel at how well Dobbs manages his emotions under any situation, a trait that continued even after the South Carolina game.

''I didn't see any panic,'' offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. ''I didn't see where he was down at all. I just saw Josh Dobbs. That's what you love about the kid. Every day he brings the same mentality, same attitude. Everything's the same. He doesn't get high. He doesn't get low. That's important, especially at that position.''

Dobbs utilizes the same approach off the field, which has enabled the senior aerospace engineering major to earn many honors that aren't necessarily related to athletics. The latest one came Tuesday when Dobbs was selected to the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society, which recognizes high achievers in various fields. Members of the society have included Tennessee legends Peyton Manning and Pat Summitt.

But as serious as Dobbs may seem on most occasions, he believes it's also important to recognize that he's playing a game. Dobbs said part of the reason the Volunteers finally ended its slide last week and started playing better was that they began having fun again.

''It was great for the team to go out and just have fun, to enjoy the game we grew up loving, the game we grew up playing as kids,'' Dobbs said. ''Just go out and have fun. Obviously there are a lot bigger implications within the game, bigger meanings. But at the end of the day, it is a game, and you're supposed to go out and enjoy it every time you step on the field.''

Dobbs traditionally has plenty of fun against Kentucky.

He has won all three of his previous starts against the Wildcats. Dobbs threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores in a 52-21 blowout at Kentucky last season. Two years ago, Dobbs threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score in a 50-16 triumph over Kentucky.

''My past performances versus a certain opponent don't dictate future performances,'' Dobbs said. ''I have to go out and prepare well if I want to play well again this week.''


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