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Tennessee's Arsenal of Weapons Has Vols Ready for Stretch Run After Kentucky Win

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 01 Nov 2015

Against Alabama last week, Tennessee showed a national audience that it had the team speed and talent to hang with a quality opponent. On Saturday, the Volunteers proved they could run away from a mediocre one.From the first snap, there was an obvious difference in the type of player on the field for the Vols and for Kentucky. That manifested itself in a 52-21 obliteration of the Wildcats.The victory was a throwback to last year's 50-16 win over UK, and it should be a sneak peek into what's to come for Tennessee during the rest of the season. The athletes coach Butch Jones recruited over the past three years should help UT outclass South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt the rest of the way.UT's stable of 4- and 5-star recruits are finally beginning to play like it. A handful of game-breaking plays provided the difference against Kentucky.Jones alluded to those momentum-shifters afterward, according to Volquest's Paul Fortenberry:The running back duo of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara made massive plays, whether it was on the ground or through the air. Josh Malone became the Vols' first 100-yard receiver of the season, and he highlighted his night with a 75-yard touchdown grab.Evan Berry scored his third kick-return touchdown of the season with a 100-yard return, and Cameron Sutton added an 84-yard punt return for a score.And quarterback Joshua Dobbs was the maestro of it all, clearly the best player on the field as he torched the 'Cats with his arm and his legs.It couldn't have been a better night for the Vols.Tennessee scored more points against an SEC opponent since it dropped 52 on Ole Miss in November of 2010, and the Vols beat Kentucky for the 30th time in 31 tries.But this was about more than extending streaks.It was about proving to everybody else that they had too much firepower and too many offensive playmakers to have an emotional letdown after a close, draining loss to rival Alabama last week.Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord was maligned through the first few weeks, but it's obvious over the past few weeks that he is learning how to utilize the massive amount of weaponry in his offensive arsenal.He called close to a perfect game Saturday night.Normally robotic in postgame interviews, Dobbs even said in a roundabout way that it'll be tough for anybody to beat the Vols if they play the way they're capable of.Though the Vols moved the ball up and down the field early on, a Dobbs fumble returned 77 yards for a Kentucky touchdown and a stalled drive on the Wildcats' 38-yard line kept the game close.Despite the Halloween candy hangover, the Vols jolted awake in the second quarter. They sandwiched touchdowns around halftime, ending any Kentucky hopes. Once the Vols took momentum, they seized it and ran with it. Those scores were part of a crazy run.Tennessee converted on eight consecutive scoring drivesseven of them touchdownsand by then,Commonwealth Stadium was nearly empty besides the orange faithful.They stayed to see who'd score next.This is a confident football team that has grown and gotten better through early-season adversity and happens to be playing its best just as the schedule lightens up.The Gamecocks looked game against Texas A&M earlier in the day, and both Missouri and Vanderbilt feature stout defenses, but it's tough to see the Vols failing to be anything but heavy favorites the rest of the way.Too much star potential roams the UT sideline for the team not to be.Kentucky loaded the box to stop Hurd for much of the first half, and the 'Cats did a pretty good job of it. But they fell victim to Dobbs getting seven different receivers the football as he sprayed it all over the field. He also danced his way to some highlight-reel runs, especially his sideline-hugging first score.He also shrugged off his doubters who've scoffed at his ability to throw downfield with the long strike to Malone.With Hurd bottled up, Tennessee turned to Kamara who broke free for a 63-yard run to the 1-yard line to set up Dobbs' second score.All those special talents that highlighted two top-10 recruiting classes from the past two years spilled over into special teams as Berry and Sutton highlighted the victory parade with their second-half scores.Forget haints, goblins and ghouls; the Wildcats will be seeing Tennessee talents in their nightmares.Four players had 50-plus yards rushing, and Tennessee averaged more than seven yards per play while generating 482 yards of offense and really not doing anything more than handing the ball off throughout the fourth quarter.It's how UT is capable of playing, which makes the Vols' 4-4 record at this point of the season all the more frustrating.Despite the past, the bottom line is Tennessee still controls the ability to finish with eight wins and a solid season that would be a step forward in Jones' program rebuild.Throughout Saturday, there was no question as to which team was superior.Really good football teams embarrass teams that aren't, and that's been missing from Tennessee in recent years. Just a month ago, UT jumped up by two scores against a mediocre Arkansas and squandered the game away in an eventual loss.The next week, they finally broke through for a big comeback win over Georgia, and during that game, it appeared a light of belief came on in the Vols that perhaps changed the program's trajectory. Since then, the Vols are playing like an elite team.Saturday's win over Kentucky was the culmination of it all. If the Vols keep playing like they have the past three games, they'll steamroll through the rest of the schedule.All stats gathered from NCAA.comunless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter@Brad_Shepard.
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