UT opens Kiffin era with 63-7 romp

Lane Kiffin made a statement in his first game as Tennessee's head coach: His Vols are going to be physical and they're going to be relentless.

The Big Orange exhibited both traits Saturday at Neyland Stadium - piling up 380 rushing yards and scoring nine touchdowns in the game's final 45 minutes en route to a 63-7 annihilation of Western Kentucky.

"I think there is a lot to your team having a certain personality, and I thought today we played with that personality," Kiffin said in his first post-game press conference as UT's head man. "We were a very physical, aggressive team that played pretty smart for the most part."

After stopping itself with an interception and a fumble on its two first-quarter possessions, Tennessee scored four second-quarter touchdowns for a 28-0 halftime lead. The Vols got a little complacent in the third quarter - a period which saw each team produce seven points - then showed a killer instinct by hanging four fourth-quarter TDs on the hapless Hilltoppers, playing their first full season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Tennessee dominated statistically, posting 34 first downs to WKU's 6, converting on 7 of 9 third-down tries to WKU's 1 of 11 and piling up 657 total yards to WKU's 83. The 56-point margin was Tennessee's biggest in an opener since a 70-3 blowout of Louisiana-Monroe in 2000.

"It's one game," Kiffin said matter of factly. "This is the way we expected to play. We have high expectations here. That does not surprise me ... the way these numbers are. That's how it should be."

Although the big offensive numbers Tennessee put up were impressive, the coach was just as pleased with a couple of small numbers. The Vols were penalized six times for a mere 45 yards.

"I've never said how many games we're going to win or how good we're going to be," Kiffin said. "I've said we're going to play physical and we're going to play smart, and you saw that today....

"We don't want to have any (penalties). But when you play that many guys, six penalties for 45 yards is a pretty good job."

Senior Montario Hardesty rushed 18 times for 160 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown burst. Freshman Bryce Brown added 11 carries for 104 yards, including a two-yard score. Sophomore Tauren Poole starred at mop-up time, gaining 63 yards on five rushes. Freshman David Oku added 42 yards on eight attempts.

Senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton completed 21 of 28 passes for 233 yards and five touchdowns - one more than he threw in 12 games last fall. He had two passes intercepted but both were tipped. Backup Nick Stephens was 4 of 4 for 44 yards.

Freshman Marsalis Teague led all receivers with 6 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Quintin Hancock added 5 grabs for 65 yards and a TD. Freshman Nu'Keese Richardson caught three balls for 30 yards. Brandon Warren had three catches for 27 yards and a TD. Tight end Luke Stocker made his two catches count, parlaying them into 23 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee's offense was so efficient that Chad Cunningham didn't have to punt all day. Asked if he could remember the last time one of his teams went an entire game without punting, Kiffin grinned smugly.

"It wasn't in Oakland; that's for sure."

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