KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma by taking out its frustrations on Western Carolina.
Alvin Kamara became the first Volunteer 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 their Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Tennessee (2-1) was playing its first game since a 31-24 overtime loss to Oklahoma in which it squandered a 17-0 advantage, which marked its largest blown lead ever in a home defeat. The Vols 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 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 then 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.
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 athletic department spokesman Jason Yellin said it was the first time since at least 1957 that the Vols had scored on a kickoff return and a punt return in the same game. That’s as far back as Tennessee was able to go back in its records on that particular statistic Saturday night.
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.
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 two touchdown receptions 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.”
Western Carolina’s Detrez Newsome rushed for 128 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.