KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- — Joe Milton III threw for 156 yards and ran for 89 in the first half, leading No. 23 Tennessee to a 45-14 victory over UTSA on Saturday.
Milton played a key role in three early touchdowns for the Volunteers (3-1) — an 81-yard scoring run on the first play of the game and TD passes to Ramel Keyton and Kaleb Webb — as they took a 31-0 lead into halftime.
“We played well early and finished strong,” Vols coach Josh Heupel said.
The Roadrunners (1-3) struggled without quarterback Frank Harris, who missed his second game with turf toe. In his absence, Owen McCown was 18 for 20 passing for 170 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.
Milton’s 81-yard scoring burst on the first play of the game was the longest scoring run by a quarterback in Tennessee history
“You can't give up a quarterback run on the very first play of the game,” UTSA coach Jeff Traylor said. “That's just inexcusable. Total misfit. It's disappointing.”
The offensive outburst was a welcome release for Tennessee, which had trouble the last two weeks in a win over Austin Peay and a loss to Florida. The Vols generated just 54 yards and no points in the third quarter, and then responded with two scores in the fourth.
“(Avoiding a third-quarter lull) starts with not being complacent,” said Milton. “As an offense, we've gotta finish it.”
“This was a reminder of the competitive edge you've gotta have,” Heupel said. “There's a fine line.”
FACTS & FIGURES
UTSA's Tykee Ogle-Kellogg, who grew up in Alcoa, Tenn., 15 miles south of Neyland Stadium, caught a 43-yard TD pass. ... Vols center Cooper Mays missed his fourth straight game after having a medical procedure during training camp.
UTSA's first turnover recovery this season was a strange one. Fourth down deep in Roadrunners territory in the first quarter, Lucas Dean's punt was blocked. It rolled several yards and was touched by a Tennessee player. UTSA's Kelechi Nwachuku recovered it.
For the first time in Tennessee football history, the UTSA game was broadcast in Spanish. The Learfield/Vols Network and the university offered the audio broadcast to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The broadcast was available on the Tennessee Athletics app.
Carlos Lopez, a native of Venezuela who was a kicker at Carson Newman-Newman University and Middle Tennessee State University, did the play-by-play. Fuad Reveiz, a former Tennessee kicker who spent 11 seasons in the NFL, was the analyst.
UTSA: Harris (turf toe) and linebacker Trey Moore (ankle) are two key players the Roadrunners need to get to the top of their game in time for the American Athletic Conference season to begin. Not having Harris available for the Tennessee game led to some of the problems they had against the Vols.
Tennessee: Confidence was the primary intangible Tennessee was seeking after its decisive loss to Florida last week. The Vols needed to recover in time to get things straight before the Southeastern Conference schedule starts in earnest next week against South Carolina. Solving the problems in the running game, which focused on the offensive line, and getting the defense to wrap up and bring ballcarriers down were main objectives. Those fundamentals were able to be accomplished, which helped the confidence grow heading into the meat of the schedule.
Tennessee has seen what can happen in the polls, even when the Vols won but didn’t look impressive in doing so. They dropped from No. 9 to 11 while struggling with Austin Peay. After the loss to Florida, Tennessee went on to plummet 12 spots. Now, it’s just a matter of slowly climbing back up the ladder.
UTSA: The Roadrunners will try to get healthy and piece things together in time for their American Athletic Conference debut at Temple on Saturday.
Tennessee: The Vols shouldn’t have a problem getting excited for next week’s home game with South Carolina. It was the Gamecocks who ruined their playoff chances last season and knocked out quarterback Hendon Hooker.