In the season finale for two teams that won't be headed to postseason play, the Volunteers (5-7, 2-6 SEC) got the jump on the Wildcats (2-10, 0-8 SEC) with a 60-yard touchdown run by Raijon Neal on the second play of the game.
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jason Croom at the end of the first quarter and added a 40-yard touchdown run of his own midway thought the second quarter to stake the Vols to a 20-point advantage.
"The message for them tonight is, when you make big plays, you take care of the ball on offense and you have a mindset to win on the road; you can accomplish anything you put your mind to," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "We'll enjoy this one, but Monday we're back in the weight room getting ready for next season. I want to continue to stay positive and move forward, but it's expected that we go to bowl games from here on out. That's our goal."
Like Jones on the opposite sideline, Mark Stoops was wrapping up his first season as head coach at Kentucky.
"Tough way to lock up the season," he said. "You know, frustrating loss, but give credit to Tennessee. They played better than us, made plays when they needed to, coached better than us. And so kind of just seems like that's the way most of the year went for us. Had our opportunities and didn't make them."
Kentucky had 393 total yards in its best offensive showing in SEC play this season, but quarterback Maxwell Smith was sacked five times, including 4.5 by Tennessee defensive end Corey Miller. He broke the school record for sacks in a single game held by Reggie White.
The Wildcats also had yet another potential scoring drive thwarted when Dyshawn Mobley, who rushed for a career-high 143 yards on 17 carries, was tripped up just inches shy of the goal line on a drive in the fourth quarter that could have helped make it a one-possession game in light of Smith's 14-yard touchdown pass to Javess Blue with 3:41 remaining.
Smith completed 25 of 38 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions for UK, but it couldn't keep the Cats from their second straight winless season in SEC play. It marked the first time since 1941-42 that has occurred at Kentucky.