Six plays. It was six plays that shifted a Volunteer matchup against an upset-poised Western Kentucky team to a blowout in UT's favor.
The Vols were able to capitalize off of seven Hilltopper turnovers and cruise to a 52-20 victory in front of 87,000 orange-clad fans inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers received the opening kickoff and drove down the field for an opening drive field goal and after a short UT drive, it seemed as if the upset was brewing.
That is, until a pass from WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty went right off of his receiver's hands and into the waiting arms of junior cornerback Justin Coleman – who would proceed to coast into the end zone.
"I mean it was just a play that created great energy and a huge momentum swing," Coleman said. "The pick-six, it was just something that I guess you could say the football gods offered, and because those who basically work hard will gain rewards from it."
The pick-six by Coleman would jump-start an unprecedented stretch of ball-hawking by the Volunteer defense as they would record five turnovers within six Western Kentucky offensive plays in the first quarter – helping the Vols jump to a 24-3 lead.
The Vols scored 38 points off of the sevens turnovers they forced throughout the game, an effort that made Jones refer to one piece of an old Tennessee football tradition after the game.
"General Neyland Maxim Two: Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way, score. I thought we were opportunistic in the first half," Jones said. "Defensively, it was the most turnovers since 1984.
"We were opportunistic. Again, it's a great lesson to our football team about preparing and having a great week of preparation and playing with an energy level and passion."
Offensively, the Vols were not at their peak, especially in the first half.
Quarterback Justin Worley went 3-for-9 and passed for only 35 yards and felt he didn't struggle, but instead that the offense failed to kick-start due to the short fields they were given.
"We had a couple drops that hurt," Worley said. "(And) we couldn't get in a rhythm just based on the number of plays that we had. We had nine or so plays in the first quarter. Not getting in a rhythm never helps, but I don't think I struggled.”
Worley did improve, however, in the second half, finishing the day 11-19 for 142 yards, paired with a touchdown and an interception.
"I think going into halftime you make adjustments based on what you're seeing and things like that," Worley said. "I think Coach Jake did a great job of taking what the defense was giving him and really coming up with a great second-half game plan."
The offense got a much-needed boost from their rushing attack in the second half as the group rushed for 191 yards in the half alone after only recording 49 yards in the first two quarters of play.
Junior running back Marlin Lane led the team with 97 yards, 75 of which came in the second half, and senior Rajion Neal punched in three rushing scores to go along with his 74 yards.
"I think we got into a rhythm,” Neal said about the difference in the rushing attack between the two halves. “We put some drives together, gave the O-Line a little more rhythm. With me, it was getting more reads and things like that.
"In this league, you have to be able to run the ball. That's something that Coach Jones wants to do and preaches to us to do. We felt it was coming and we were ready for the challenge."
The Vols will travel to Eugene, Ore. to face off against the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks next Saturday inside Autzen Stadium at 3:30 p.m. EST.