NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Volunteers have their first victory as a ranked team since the end of the 2007 season, showing off a rushing attack to be envied even in the Southeastern Conference.
Sticking around the Top 25 will require a little work on defense.
Jalen Hurd had three first-half touchdown runs, Alvin Kamara ran for two more scores, and No. 25 Tennessee beat Bowling Green 59-30 on Saturday in a season opener delayed 80 minutes by lightning.
”That was a long game,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said about the game that finished more than five hours after kickoff.
Ranked for the first time since September 2012, Tennessee won its first game as a ranked team since the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008. The Vols also had two running backs top 100 yards for the first time since 2009 against Western Kentucky with Hurd finishing with 123 yards, Kamara had 144 in his Tennessee debut. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs added a TD and 89 yards.
Dobbs also threw for 205 yards and two TD passes to Ethan Wolf, and the defense came up with three sacks and a turnover. Tennessee outgained the Falcons 604-557 even with two touchdowns wiped out by penalties. But Bowling Green coach Dino Babers said he felt they played to a draw defensively.
”I promise you that someone’s not going to sleep over there based off of their defense either,” Babers said about the Vols.
Bowling Green had Matt Johnson back after hurting his hip in the opener last year, and he threw for 424 yards and two touchdowns against a Tennessee secondary that lost two projected starters in August to injuries with assistant coach Willie Martinez suspended just before the game for an impermissible contact violation 16 months ago.
Jones defended his secondary, saying Bowling Green made some great plays. Evan Berry also started at strong safety with Todd Kelly Jr. in the hospital part of the week with an infection. But Jones said not having the assistant head coach upstairs in the box hurt communication.
Tennessee senior safety Brian Randolph said he’s not worried with Oklahoma coming to Knoxville on Sept. 12.
”We’re much better than we showed tonight,” Randolph said. ”It’s all stuff we could correct, so it’s not doom and gloom here.”
Lightning stopped play with 8:30 left in the third quarter, and a fan tried running on the field during the delay only to be tackled by security.
The Falcons from the Mid-American Conference kept attacking with an offense that looks just as speedy as last season when only Baylor and Arizona ran plays faster in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Four of their scoring drives lasted no longer than 2 minutes, 20 seconds. But they hurt themselves with repeated penalties, flagged 12 times for 128 yards.
Tennessee topped that with five TD drives taking 73 seconds or less each.
With this game a three-hour drive west of Knoxville, the Volunteers made themselves at home in the stadium where the NFL’s Tennessee Titans play. They held their traditional Vol Walk, painted a Power ”T” in the middle of the field and draped their orange tarp on their side of the field.
Then the Vols scored TDs on each of three first three possessions with Hurd and Kamara swapping the honors of finishing those drives in taking a 21-3 lead.
Bowling Green got to 21-20 with 17 straight points, including one drive where they gambled on fourth-and-1 at its own 13. But running back Travis Greene was hurt after catching a short pass near the Falcons’ goal line and being hit by cornerback Cam Sutton. Greene was helped to the locker room and watched the second half from the sideline.
Tennessee responded, scoring twice in the final 2 minutes before halftime. Hurd ran 13 yards for his third TD, and Dobbs tossed an 11-yard scoring pass to Wolf.
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