Turning over the ’Toppers: Turnover-prone Western Kentucky falls to Vols
By Steve Megargee | AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE — Justin Coleman and Cameron Sutton returned interceptions for touchdowns Saturday as Tennessee scored after each of Western Kentucky’s five first-quarter turnovers in a 52-20 victory.
Western Kentucky (1-1) turned the ball over five times in a span of six snaps during the first quarter, turning an early 3-0 lead into a 31-3 deficit.
The Football Bowl Subdivision record for consecutive turnovers forced by a defense is seven straight series. Florida State had four fumbles and three interceptions in its first seven possessions of a 42-13 loss to Florida on Oct. 7, 1972.
Western Kentucky finished the day with seven turnovers, including five interceptions by quarterback Brandon Doughty, who was 17 of 34 for 222 yards with one touchdown pass. Brian Randolph picked off two Doughty passes in the end zone.
Tennessee’s seven takeaways were its highest since Nov. 10, 1984, when it also forced seven turnovers in a 41-9 rout of Memphis. The Volunteers hadn’t picked off as many as five passes in a game since a 56-21 victory over Kentucky on Nov. 20, 1999.
Marlin Lane rushed for 97 yards and one touchdown for Tennessee (2-0). Rajion Neal added 74 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Antonio Andrews ran for 111 yards to lead Western Kentucky.
Western Kentucky’s inability to take care of the ball cost the Hilltoppers an opportunity to beat a Southeastern Conference team for the second straight week. Western Kentucky had beaten Kentucky 35-26 in its first game under former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
The Hilltoppers outgained Tennessee 236-84 and controlled the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half, yet they still trailed 31-17 at halftime because they already had six turnovers by then.
Doughty threw interceptions to Randolph, Coleman, Sutton and linebacker Brent Brewer. None of them ever had picked off a pass in a college game before Saturday. Brewer also forced a fumble.
Coleman’s 23-yard touchdown return put Tennessee ahead 7-3 with 4:24 left in the first quarter. Doughty’s next pass went directly to Sutton, whose 36-yard return made it 14-3. This marked the first time Tennessee had scored on two interception returns in the same game since Eric Gordon and Prentiss Waggner reached the end zone in a 52-14 rout of Mississippi on Nov. 13, 2010.
On the first play of Western Kentucky’s next series, linebacker Dontavis Sapp stripped the ball from Keshawn Simpson and recovered the fumble at the Western Kentucky 28. That turnover led to Michael Palardy’s 23-yard field goal.
The next time Western Kentucky snapped the ball, Brent Brewer forced an Andrews fumble that Max Arnold recovered and returned 23 yards to give Tennessee the ball at the Hilltoppers 12. Two plays later, Neal reached the end zone from 1 yard out.
After the Hilltoppers were called for an illegal block on the ensuing kickoff return, Corey Miller pressured Doughty into throwing a pass that was picked off by Brewer at the Western Kentucky 22. That turnover resulted in a Lane 8-yard touchdown run that put Tennessee ahead 31-3.
Western Kentucky threatened to make a game of it by scoring two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the half, cutting Tennessee’s lead to 31-17.
But the Hilltoppers couldn’t get any closer.
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