Tennessee wasted no time setting off offensive fireworks Saturday night that never quite seemed to end.
The Vols (2-1, 0-0) racked up 447 total yards, flashing an improved passing attack that helped easily dispatch of Western Carolina, 55-10, Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Cameron Sutton sparked the 55-10 onslaught in the first quarter, forcing a fumble on Western Carolina’s first drive that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Josh Dobbs to Preston Williams on the freshman wide receiver’s first ever college reception with 11:53 to play in the first quarter.
Tennessee quickly followed that with a 20-yard Aaron Medley field goal before racking up 31 points in the second quarter — the most in any one quarter for the Vols since scoring 35 in the first quarter against Arkansas in 2000.
Mixed in with two rushing touchdowns by Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara was an electrifying special teams play that brought the announced crowd of 102, 144 to its feet. With 45 seconds to play before the half, Evan Berry broke off an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, bouncing off several Catamount players before sprinting into the end zone.
The Vols followed Berry’s return in the third quarter with a 5-yard punt return for a touchdown by Kamara. The two returns mark the first time Tennessee has scored on both a kick and punt return in the same game since at least 1957 according to school officials.
The start of the third quarter also marked the end of the night for Dobbs, who finished the game 15-of-22 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. His replacement, freshman Quinten Dormady, followed him with a 6-of-8 performance for 93 yards and a 24-yard touchdown to Williams.
Butch Jones' defense even got in on the fireworks, when freshly returned safety LaDarrell McNeil picked off Catamount quarterback Troy Mitchell and returned it 57 yards to the WCU 8-yard line, setting up Hurd's score. Western Carolina scored on a 64-yard run from Detrez Newsome — it’s longest rushing score of the season — but it would be but a small consolation.
Tennessee faces Florida Sept. 27 in Gainesville to open SEC play.