Volunteers cruise past UConn

Published 1:29 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

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Tennessee rolled up 650 yards of total offense and scored a school-record three defensive touchdowns en route to a 59-3 Homecoming game victory over UConn on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

The No. 17 Vols (7-2, 3-2 SEC) won their 14th-consecutive home contest and played in front of their 11th-straight sellout in Knoxville, with 101,915 on hand vs. the Huskies (1-8). The Vols also improved to 76-20-3 in its 99th Homecoming contest.

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Quarterbacks Joe Milton III (11-14-254, 2 TDs) and Nico Iamaleava (5-9-86, 1 TD) combined for three touchdown passes, as UT completed 21 of 31 attempts through the air for 375 yards. Sophomore wideout Squirrel White led all receivers with 94 yards on two catches and an 83-yard touchdown. Senior wide receiver Ramel Keyton hauled in two balls for 81 yards, with a 60-yard scoring play to his credit.

Defensive end Tyler Baron (24-yard fumble return), safety Jaylen McCollough (30-yard interception return) and linebacker Aaron Beasley (39-yard interception return) paced the Tennessee defense and made school history with their point-producing efforts. Linebacker Elijah Herring led his squad with career-high tying eight tackles, as the Vol stop-troops held UConn to 35 yards rushing and no touchdowns on the day.

Running back Jaylen Wright continued to lead the Vols’ punishing run game. He carried eight times for 113 yards and a touchdown. It marked his sixth time over 100 yards in 2023, tying him for the sixth-most in UT single season history. It also stands as the most by a Vol since Jalen Hurd had six in 2015. Wright joined teammate Jabari Small as the second Vol to eclipse 2,000 career rushing yards this season. Wright’s career tally now stands at 2,110 and ranks 15th in Tennessee history.

It didn’t take long for the Vols to fire up the capacity crowd. On the second play from scrimmage, Wright took the handoff and exploded through the middle of the line for an 82-yard touchdown run. That jaunt tied for the ninth-longest in UT history. Charles Campbell’s point-after kick was good, pushing the Vols in front, 7-0, only 23 seconds into the contest.

UConn looked to be in position to even the score late in the first period, but Tennessee’s defense thwarted that threat and limited the Huskies to a field goal. Noe Ruelas’ 22-yard kick culminated a 10-play, 79-yard drive and trimmed the UT lead to 7-3 with 2:47 remaining in the quarter.

Tennessee bounced right back, taking only four plays to flip the digits on the scoreboard. Milton connected with a wide-open Keyton along the right hash for a 60-yard touchdown pass, marking the 13th-consecutive game the Vol signal-caller has recorded a scoring toss. That ties him for third at UT with Tony Robinson. Campbell’s PAT boosted the Vols’ advantage to 14-3 with 1:38 to go in the opening stanza.

UT exploded for three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 35-3 lead into the half. It got a 6-yard keeper from Milton, an 83-yard scoring strike from Milton to White, and a 24-yard scoop-and-score by Baron to take a 35-3 lead into the locker room.

The Tennessee onslaught continued in the third period, ignited by a pair of defensive scores. On the first play from scrimmage, McCollough stepped in front of an errant Ta’Quan Roberson pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. On the next UConn possession, Beasley contributed a pick-six of his own, taking back another off-target Robinson toss 39 yards to pay-dirt.

Iamaleava took over at quarterback midway through the third quarter and guided his unit on an eight-play, 78-yard scoring drive. The capper was a 19-yard TD pass to tight end McCallan Castles. Josh Turbyville came on to boot his first career PAT and make the score 56-3 with 7:30 to go in the frame.

Gaston Moore became the third Vol quarterback to guide the offense to points, providing the day’s final scoring. He directed an eight-play, 45-yard drive that ended with Turbyville drilling his first career field goal, a 33-yarder, to boost his team’s lead to 59-3 with 8:02 left in the game.