KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Western Kentucky trailed Tennessee 31-17 at halftime after a disastrous first two quarters inside Neyland Stadium.
The Hilltoppers (1-0) had six first-half turnovers and the Volunteers (1-0) took two of those turnovers back for touchdowns. A third turnover was a UT interception in the end zone.
Still, WKU was able to creep back in with a Brandon Doughty 6-yard pass to Nicholas Norris just before the half to close the gap.
As it did last weekend against Kentucky, WKU won the toss and took the ball. The Tops then marched 14 plays over 7:05 where the drive stalled at the UT 20. Garrett Schwettman booted a 37-yard field goal to give his team a 3-0 lead at the 7:55 mark.
The Tops forced a UT punt from there, but after starting from their own 2 and moving to the 19, disaster struck.
Doughty dropped back and threw to his right for Taywan Taylor, but the true freshman had the ball bounce off his chest and it came back down to Justin Coleman, who returned it 23 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-3 Vols with 4:24 left in the first.
On the Hilltoppers' second play from scrimmage from there, Doughty threw left and watched Cameron Sutton jump the route and take it 36 yards the other way for a touchdown. Just like that, UT took a 14-3 lead with 3:27left in the period despite being outgained 75-12 at that point.
On the very next WKU play, Keshawn Simpson fumbled it away to give the Volunteers the ball at the 28 going in.
That led to a 23-yard field goal by Michael Palardy to make it 17-3 with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
Things went from bad to worse for WKU from there as Antonio Andrews fumbled the very next play and Max Arnold returned it to the 12. One play later, Rajion Neal dove in around right end to make it 24-3.
As if on cue – Doughty's next pass was picked by Brent Brewer at the 22. It was the Hilltoppers' fifth turnover in five plays.
That miscue led to Marlin Lane's eight-yard TD run up the middle to make it 31-3 on the first play of the second quarter.
Western Kentucky settled down a bit midway through the second quarter with a nine-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by Doughty's pass to Leon Allen who went airborne, landing at the one-inch line.
Allen scored over right tackle from there to cut the deficit to 31-10 with 6:47 left in the half.