Record crowd watches No. 17 Vols beat Virginia Tech 45-24
Tennessee erased an early 14-point deficit at Bristol Motor Speedway almost as fast as drivers typically race around the half-mile track that circled the makeshift football field.
Joshua Dobbs threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores Saturday night as the 17th-ranked Volunteers beat Virginia Tech 45-24 in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 156,990 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The crowd total shattered the previous NCAA record of 115,109 who attended a Michigan victory over Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium in 2013.
"Just an unbelievable spectacle," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "I think the reality hit our players when we came here yesterday for the walk through with all the campers and trailers again this is truly a special evening that we'll remember for a lifetime."
Virginia Tech (1-1) outscored Tennessee 14-0 and outgained the Vols 204-28 in the first quarter. Tennessee (2-0) responded by scoring 31 straight points, including 24 in the second period.
Dobbs ran for 106 yards on 14 carries, one week after being held to negative rushing yards in a 20-13 overtime victory over Appalachian State. He was 10 of 19 for 91 yards through the air and threw touchdown passes to Jauan Jennings, Josh Malone and Alvin Kamara.
"We just executed," Dobbs said. "In the first quarter, there was really no reason to panic. We knew that we were going to have to score more than 14 points if we wanted to win this ballgame. There's just that expectation and confidence throughout the unit that we'll be fine, we'll go out, make our plays and our time will come."
Tennessee's Micah Abernathy set a school single-game record with three fumble recoveries. Virginia Tech ended up losing five fumbles, and three of those turnovers resulted in Tennessee touchdowns. The Hokies have lost nine fumbles through their first two games.
"We've obviously got to do a better job either teaching or understanding or emphasizing ball security," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. "We're inadequate, to say the least, right now."
Jalen Hurd ran for 99 yards on 22 carries. Virginia Tech's Travon McMillian rushed 14 times for 127 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown.
The turning point of the game came when Abernathy recovered a fumble on the Virginia Tech 5 in the opening play of the second quarter. Dobbs found Jennings in the end zone on the next play.
Tennessee's next three drives resulted in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs to Malone, an Aaron Medley 34-yard field goal and a Dobbs 5-yard touchdown run.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies simply must do a better job of protecting the football. Virginia Tech's dominant first-quarter performance showed the Hokies' potential, but they can't keep hurting themselves with turnovers and ill-timed penalties. Virginia Tech players said the breakdowns may have resulted from a bad week of practice.
"As a leader, I will do a better job of making sure my guys are in tune," Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans said. "I put this all on me."
Tennessee: After averaging just below 3 yards per carry against Appalachian State, the Vols regrouped this week and ran the ball much more effectively. The Vols still must improve their passing attack and gain consistency along the offensive line.
SPEEDWAY TO STADIUM
This marked the first football game to take place at the Bristol Motor Speedway since the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles played a 1961 exhibition game here that drew 10,000 fans to a facility that seated 20,000 at the time.
Work began on the speedway's temporary conversion into a football stadium the morning after a Sprint Cup race three weeks ago. The facility will host a Football Championship Subdivision game between East Tennessee State and Western Carolina on Sept. 17.
Tennessee tumbled eight spots in the Top 25 after the Appalachian State game, but this decisive victory could get the Vols back into the top 15.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies host Boston College on Saturday in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener. Boston College (1-1) will be coming off a 26-7 victory over Massachusetts.
Tennessee: The Vols host Ohio on Saturday. Ohio won 37-21 at Kansas this week.