9-2-2023 – NASHVILLE, Tenn. – No. 12/10 Tennessee cranked up its high-octane offense and used a stingy defensive effort to roll through Virginia 49-13 Saturday afternoon at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
For the 16th time under head coach Josh Heupel, the Vols (1-0) scored 40-plus points, while earning their third consecutive victory over an ACC opponent in the last 12 months.
A frenzied crowd of 69,507 – the largest to witness a sporting event in Nissan Stadium history – saw UT pick up where it left off in last December’s Orange Bowl victory.
Saturday marked the sixth time a Heupel-led offense gained more than 275 yards on the ground, finishing the contest with 287. Junior running back Jaylen Wright led the team with 115 yards rushing, his third career game going over the century mark.
Quarterback Joe Milton III finished the day 21-of-30 through the air with 201 passing yards and a pair of passing and rushing touchdowns in Tennessee’s opening game of the 2023 campaign. He led an efficient Tennessee offense that churned up 499 yards of total offense in the victory.
Tennessee’s defense put the clamps on the Hoos, holding them to just 95 yards rushing and 106 through the air. Edge rushers Tyler Baron and James Pearce Jr. notched a pair of sacks, while linebacker Elijah Herring led UT with five total tackles.
Tennessee marched down the field on its opening drive of the season, going 62 yards on eight plays in 2:47. The drive culminated with a Milton nine-yard touchdown pass to running back Dylan Sampson on fourth down. The score was the first of four for Sampson, who racked up 52 yards on the ground and nine through the air.
Sampson’s four total touchdowns against UVA were the most by a Tennessee running back since John Kelly Jr. found the endzone four times versus Georgia Tech in the 2017 season opener. He was the first player with three rushing touchdowns in a game since Tiyon Evans accomplished the feat against Missouri in 2021.
The Vols tacked on a pair of late first-half touchdowns to take a 21-3 lead into the break. Virginia’s lone score of the first half came on a Will Bettridge 30-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Tennessee found the endzone on four of its seven second-half possessions as it pulled away from the Cavaliers.
Virginia (0-1) scored a touchdown in the third quarter before knocking through a field goal in the fourth. Perris Jones scored UVA’s lone touchdown – a 17-yard rush.
Tennessee returns to Knoxville for its home opener in Neyland Stadium vs. Austin Peay. Kickoff against the Governors is set for 5 p.m. ET on SECN+/ESPN+.