Tennessee’s defense scored three touchdowns for the first time in 25 years, the offense went for over 600 yards and Tennessee ran up and down the field on UCONN like I-75 runs through Knoxville as the Vols took the 59-3 win.
On the first drive of the game, it took Tennessee’s offense just two plays to go 85 yards for a touchdown. Jaylen Wright got three yards on the first carry of the game, and then took the next run 82 yards to the house.
Wright ran through an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage and outran every other Husky defender to get to the end zone. That 82-yard run is now the second-longest rush of Wright’s career, with his first being 83 yards against Vandy last season.
Unfortunately, the Tennessee defense didn’t start as fast as the offense. Omarr Norman-Lott committed two penalties inside the Vols own 30-yard line, with one being a 15-yard, half-the-distance to the goal flag that put the Huskies at the four-yard line.
Roberson completed a 17-yard pass on third-and-eight at their own 18-yard line, and then completed a double pass for 34 yards that looked questionable from here — as it appeared that Roberson’s throw was a forward pass, which would have negated the big play.
Regardless, after going nine plays from their own 17 to UT’s four, UCONN had to settle for a field goal as Tennessee’s defense stuffed three-straight runs from inside the two-yard line.
After the kickoff, Jaylen Wright rushed three-straight times for nine yards, leaving the Vols with a third-and-one conversion opportunity. No big deal — Joe Milton hit Ramel Keyton for a 60-yard touchdown pass. Keyton was so wide open it looked like UCONN left all its DBs in Connecticut. Near the end of the first quarter, Tennessee led 14-3 when the Huskies took over at their own 13.
Tennessee gave up two chunk plays — one a nine-yard pass to TE Justin Joly and another on an 11-yard rush by Jalen Mitchell.
At the end of the first, UCONN had the ball with a first down at the 28. Roberson hit another chunk play for an 18-yard gain through the air, but as the Huskies had made it into UT’s side of the field, an intentional grounding call cost the Huskies a down and made it third-and-14. Connecticut picked up nine yards and chose to go for it on fourth-and-five. Tamarion McDonald stopped a Roberson run for a one-yard gain and forced a turnover on downs.
Tennessee took over on its own 38, but a holding call on first down made it first-and-20 from the 38. The Vols picked up a first down on a 11-yard toss to Squirrel White and another one on a 25-yard throw-and-catch from Milton to Dont’e Thornton, Jr.
McCallan Castles caught a 15-yard pass to put UT at the eight-yard line, and Milton finished the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to the near sideline.
Joe Milton runs for a touchdown, hits the Cam Newton celebration pic.twitter.com/iavBmlbu7e— gmannVOLS (@gmannVOLS) November 4, 2023
21-3 Vols with 7:25 left in the half.
UCONN picked up 30 yards on the first play of its next drive on a throw from Roberson to Joly. The drive stalled, and the Huskies punted, flipping the field and setting up the Vols at their own five-yard line.
Two rushes for Dylan Sampson for 13 yards, and then Milton struck again, with a 82-yard pass to White, who outran a couple UCONN defenders who had the angle on him en route to the end zone. Three plays, 95 yards, 1;13 off the clock and another seven points. Two 80-yard-plus plays in 20-ish minutes. They shoulda played this game at Bristol Motor Speedway.
On Connecticut's next drive, the Huskies ran two plays before a short pass was caught, stripped and fumbled then picked up for a 24-yard touchdown fumble return for Tyler Baron.
Tyler Baron (plays defense) TOUCHDOWN (for Tennessee) pic.twitter.com/eZIbG1cOYx— gmannVOLS (@gmannVOLS) November 4, 2023
35-3 Vols, with UT’s time of possession figure at 7:47 and 3-ish minutes left before halftime.
The time of possession comparison at half ended with UT having the ball for 8:21 and the Huskies having the ball for 21;39.
Tennessee ended the first half with 402 total yards, with Milton going 11-14 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, while no WR had more than once two catches. Eight of Milton’s completions went for 10-plus yards and five went for 15-plus.
Sampson, Wright and Milton combined for 15 carries, 149 yards and two TDs.
Both teams hurt themselves with penalties — something that’s been a theme for UT this season. In the game’s first half, the Vols had five for -31 yards and the Huskies had four for -15 yards.
UCONN opened the second half with the ball, and Roberson hit Jaylen McCollough right in the gut for an interception, and McCollough took it back 30 yards for a pick-6.
Jaylen McCollough Pick 6, that's two defensive TDs today pic.twitter.com/H5rGYmVGox— gmannVOLS (@gmannVOLS) November 4, 2023
The defense opened the second half with two-straight pick-6s against the UCONN offense. After McCollough’s interception returned for a TD, UCONN ran five plays before Aaron Beasley jumped in front of a route and took the ball back 39 yards for Tennessee’s third defensive touchdown of the game.
Aaron Beasley, another pick 6, that's THREE defensive touchdowns for Tennessee pic.twitter.com/agEGBmIC26— gmannVOLS (@gmannVOLS) November 4, 2023
49-3 Vols, with 11 minutes left in the third quarter.
In the third quarter, with 9:51 left, Tennessee fans finally got their wish — Nico Iamaleava in at QB. Iamaleava led the Vols on a 8-play, 78-yard scoring drive that included a 25-yard scramble and his first touchdown throw as a Vol, to Castles for 14 yards.
Nico finished the game 5-9 for 86 yards and a touchdown, while numerous young players got some meaningful, live-game reps in the third and fourth quarter.
Sophomore Elijah Herring led the team with seven tackles, while freshman Jeremiah Telander finished third on the team with five tackles. Tennessee’s defense finished with just one sack but 13.5 tackles for loss. Baron led the team with two, and nine players had at least one stop behind the line of scrimmage.
This was the exact performance the Vols needed as they go to Columbia to face Missouri next weekend. Georgia and Mizzou play later today, so with TN at 7-2, if the Tigers pull off a win today, next week’s game has massive implications for the SEC East crown.