No. 17 Tennessee races past Virginia Tech in Battle at Bristol

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It took a full game, an overtime and an extra quarter, but Tennessee finally arrived to the 2016 college football season. And now that they’re here… look out.

After a sloppy first quarter resulted in a 14-0 deficit, the 17th-ranked Volunteers raced past Virginia Tech for a 45-24 win in at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Vols’ first three possessions lasted 10 plays — that’s one above the minimum, avoiding turnovers — while Virginia Tech mounted drives of 59, 62 and 77 yards, the last one largely a 69-yard Travon McMillan scoring jaunt. But, backed into their own territory, Virginia Tech botched a shotgun snap exchange and Tennessee recovered at the Hokies’ 5-yard line.

One play later, Tennessee cut the deficit to 14-7 on Josh Dobbs‘ first touchdown pass of the day. Four snaps after that, the Vols had shot 90 yards in four plays — largely on the strength of a 40-yard Dobbs dash and an on-the-money 38-yard scoring heave to Josh Malone — to tie the game. Another Virginia Tech fumble led to a short field goal drive, and Tennessee closed a blitzkrieg second quarter by moving 58 yards in nine plays to set up a 5-yard Dobbs touchdown run, turning a 14-0 hole to start the second quarter into a 24-14 lead at its close.

Dobbs’ third touchdown pass of the day, this one to Alvin Kamara, nudged the lead to 31-14 midway through the third quarter, and Virginia Tech at last stopped the bleeding with a Joey Slye 26-yard field goal on their next possession.

Any glimmer of Hokie hope evaporated with another lost fumble that turned into another Vols touchdown drive, and that pattern repeated itself one more time to push the lead to 45-17. Virginia Tech added a cosmetic score to close the scoring with 3:28 remaining.

Dobbs closed the night hitting 10-of-19 passing with three touchdowns and an interception while rushing 14 times for 106 yards and two more scores; Jalen Hurd added 22 carries for 99 yards.

Virginia Tech posted nice numbers offensively — 214 passing yards for Jerod Evans, 127 on the ground by McMillan — but five lost fumbles negated much of that progress.