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Austin Peay began football 77 years ago. It’s a wonder the bullies in the SEC waited this long to pick on the Governors.
Tennessee launched the Butch Jones Era to a rollicking start Saturday night, flattening Austin Peay 45-0 before a Neyland Stadium crowd of 97,169.
If the Vols (1-0) are diminished or in rebuilding mode, you couldn’t tell it in this mismatch against a lower-rung Football Championship Division foe getting its first taste of SEC muscle.
The first half was close to perfect. UT scored touchdowns on all six possessions, kept the Governors off the scoreboard and did not commit either a penalty nor a turnover.
The rout was quick in developing.
After forcing an Austin Peay punt, Rajion Neal raced 47 yards for a touchdown on UT’s fourth offensive snap.
Two plays later, Daniel Hood’s interception set up a short field. Marlin Lane found an open lane for a 15-yard TD run and it was 14-0 with 10:50 still left in the first quarter.
Devrin Young’s first TD reception made it 21-0. Worley found Pig Howard from 11 yards for a 28-0 lead as the second quarter began.
Lane’s 4-yard bolt pushed it to 35-0. When the subsequent drive bogged down, the Governors pitched in with two major penalties. Worley showed his gratitude, flipping a 3-yard scoring pass to tight end Brendan Downs, after which The Pride of the Southland Band marched to the tune of a 42-0 margin.
And the show was over.
The second half was a better match as Tennessee played almost exclusively reserves, many of whom were seeing their first career action.
Michael Palardy’s 37-yard field goal was the only score of the third quarter.
Nathan Peterman had only modest success in his UT quarterback debut, operating behind an inexperienced line.
Freshman Malik Foreman squelched Austin Peay’s best threat with an interception at the Vols’ 6 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Tennessee is back on Saturday to play Western Kentucky.