Mike DeBord acknowledged Monday that Kentucky’s defense will be a far greater test for Tennessee than a year ago when Tennessee posted 52 points and 482 yards.
The beatdown handed to the Wildcats got the Big Orange started on a winning streak that reached 11 games before this October’s loss at Texas A&M.
Kentucky (5-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) ranks 92nd in the country in run defense (198.6 yards per game). Tennessee (6-3, 2-3) enters averaging 166.7 yards per game, although Alabama skewed that number considerably. If not for the Tide, owners of the country’s best run defense, the Vols would be averaging 183.5 yards per contest.
Those numbers mean Vols fans can expect to see the football high and tight in the arms of No. 4 quite a bit.
John Kelly brought “juice” back to the Tennessee offense Saturday and was met by all 10 of his teammates in the checkerboard after his 73-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of the 55-0 win over Tennessee Tech.
“His teammates rallied around him,” DeBord said.
The Detroit native Kelly scampered for 104 yards on just seven carries. On 40 attempts he is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and could earn a second consecutive start when Kentucky comes to Knoxville on Saturday.
Valuable time for QB2
Quinten Dormady shook off some rust, getting 13 pass attempts after entering homecoming with 26 career passes since enrolling in January 2015. Dormady completed nine of those tries for 109 yards with no interceptions and wasn’t sacked.
“Quinten Dormady did a really nice job of managing the game and throwing the football, too,” DeBord said.
Lewis sheds redshirt
The redshirt came off freshman running back Jeremy Lewis against Tech. The Oklahoma native first entered action on special teams before getting six carries for 34 yards. It isn’t common to pull off redshirts in Week 10 but the injury to Alvin Kamara and the transfer of Jalen Hurd left the staff wanting to get Lewis reps with his elevation to No. 3 runner.
“I saw more emotion,” DeBord said. “He ran the ball — I think it was on the left hash and he ran the ball — and he came through the line of scrimmage and he was really low coming through and he got tripped up and he went down and got up and he was was — kind of like somebody asked about John Kelly — frustrated because he probably thought he was going to go and score.
“Those guys have been working hard, too. It’s rewarding to them.”
Jones gets reps snapping
Jack Jones logged time at center for what may have been the first time in a Tennessee uniform. Jones played tackle at Oakland (Tenn.) High School and played right guard almost exclusively this fall for the Volunteers.
“That was one of the first things he said after the game in the locker room was that he was 100 percent with his snap location because in practice he hadn’t been,” DeBord said of the former Scout four-star prospect. “That was good to see, and he was proud of that. Obviously that’s big for our offense is snap location.”
Why the worry?
Kentucky owns the SEC’s worst overall record over the past five years (19-38), second worst record in the last decade (52-69) and is the league’s second worst road team since 1992 (25-74).
The Vols have beaten the Wildcats in 34 of the last 35 meetings.