LEXINGTON, Ky.— Tennessee rediscovered that winning feeling Saturday night, not a minute too soon.
The Vols wrapped up a downbeat season with an upbeat finale, handling Kentucky 27-14 at Commonwealth Stadium.
Thus, coach Butch Jones’ first season at UT won’t be earmarked by an historic eighth loss.
The Vols finish 5-7 for the third consecutive year, winning two SEC games (2-6) for the first time since 2010.
Jumping to a 7-0 lead when Rajion Neal scored on the second play of the game, Tennessee ended a 12-game road losing streak and beat Kentucky for the 27th time in 28 seasons.
The Wildcats (2-10, 0-8) are winless in two SEC seasons dating to their 2011 victory over the Vols here in Lexington.
The Vols hadn’t tasted victory since an Oct. 19 upset of South Carolina but victory indeed will be the final taste for a senior class that had slogged through a rough four years.
One of those seniors, Corey Miller, set a school record with 4.5 sacks.
Tennessee’s offense finally discovered those “splash” plays that have been so elusive for so long.
Neal popped free for a 60-yard touchdown on the game’s second snap.
Jason Croom snatched a hot-potato pass away from a juggling Kentucky defensive back for a 43-yard touchdown.
Then quarterback Joshua Dobbs streaked 40 yards up the middle, virtually untouched, for a 20-0 lead in the second quarter (the PAT was no good).
Croom’s got-it, lost-it, got-it-again touchdown reception capped a 94-yard Tennessee drive, the longest of the season.
That distinction didn’t last long.
Dobbs’ bolt to the end zone finished a 98-yard drive.
The Vols extended their lead to 27-7 in the third quarter when Dobbs hit Devrin Young with a 7-yard TD pass.
Kentucky got two TD passes from Maxwell Smith.