Kentucky Defense dismantles Tennessee in Second Straight Dominant Showing


Kentucky’s defensive back Kelvin Joseph (1) celebrates a touch down, during the second quarter of a game between Tennessee and Kentucky at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.

Barkley Truax

Kentucky defeated Tennessee 34-7 in Knoxville for the first time since 1984 on Saturday, snapping a 17-game losing streak at Neyland Stadium.

The defense in particular helped carry the Wildcats to their second straight victory, allowing the Vols to score only one time.

“We’ve seen what we can do when we put it together and play good on all sides,” head coach Mark Stoops said after the game. “Our defense is getting sharper… you can see signs of that in the first two games, but we haven’t been nearly as consistent as we’ve been in these last two.”

The defense forced four turnovers in the first half: three interceptions and one fumble. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns, while the third set up a field goal that gave Kentucky a 17-7 lead.

The last time the Cats played Tennessee on the road, they suffered a major letdown, falling 24-7 in what was the final loss of their 2018, 10-3 season. Players from that team were motivated to not let that happen again in 2020.

“This game definitely was personal for us… the last time I played here it didn’t go the way we planned for it to go,” linebacker Jamin Davis said post-game. “We wanted to come out and put our foot on their necks pretty much. The results show for themselves.”

The interceptions were the seventh, eighth and ninth of the year for the Wildcat defense. With Marquan McCall’s fumble recovery, the unit has recorded ten turnovers in two weeks.

The secondary in particular has been much better. It gave up a combined seven touchdowns versus Auburn and Ole Miss without a takeaway, but flipped the script entirely against Mississippi State and the Vols.

“Creating turnovers has been very big,” Stoops said. “Very helpful to the outcome of the games… we’ve played cleaner overall.”

After scoring the first two touchdowns of the game, the Cats pitched a scoreless final half. Following a four-takeaway first half with a shutout in the second is certainly a winning recipe.

“We wanted to come back out and show that we know how to finish a game and keep our foot on the gas,” Davis said. “We wanted to show everyone we weren’t going to play lackadaisical… and make sure everything is firing on all cylinders.”

After Cats will travel to Columbia to play the Missouri Tigers and will play the Bulldogs on Halloween.

“Definitely excited to get the win, but we already know that we have to get back to work,” Davis said. “It’s on to the next one.”