No. 12 Tennessee rolls over Virginia, 49-13

UVa logo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In front of a record crowd at Nissan Stadium, Virginia opened the season Saturday afternoon with a 49-13 loss to the No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers.

To keep pace with the high-powered Vols, UVA needed strong production from its offense, but that didn’t materialize. At the end of a first half in which the Cavaliers picked up only three first downs, Tennessee led 21-3.

Tennessee (1-0) finished with 499 yards of offense, to 201 for Virginia. Worse for the Wahoos, they lost their starting quarterback, Tony Muskett, when he was sacked early in the fourth quarter and hurt his non-throwing shoulder.

At his postgame press conference, UVA’s second-year head coach, Tony Elliott, didn’t have an update on Muskett, a transfer from Monmouth who before Saturday had never played in front of a crowd larger than 21,500.

The Hoos didn’t break through with a touchdown until late in the third quarter, when tailback Perris Jones scored on a 17-yard run. Will Bettridge’s extra point made it 35-10, raising the spirits of the UVA fans in the crowd of 69,507, the largest ever to see a football game at Nissan Stadium, but Tennessee answered with back-to-back touchdown drives to quell the threat.

Bettridge, a sophomore, closed the scoring with 39 seconds remaining, connecting on a 40-yard field goal.

This was the Cavaliers’ first game since the Nov. 13 shooting in which three players—wide receivers Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler and defensive end D’Sean Perry—were killed. Among those wounded in the shooting was tailback Mike Hollins, who carried the 4th Side flag onto the field Saturday and entered the game on UVA’s third play.

“He’s a walking miracle,” Elliott said of Hollins.

A moment of silence was observed before kickoff Saturday, and affixed to each Volunteer helmet was a decal commemorating Virginia’s fallen players.

The Vols are expected to contend for the Southeastern Conference title, and they showed why Saturday. They were especially dominant up front, on each side of the ball.

Led by Jaylen Wright (115 yards on 12 carries), Tennessee amassed 287 yards rushing. Another tailback, Dylan Sampson, scored four touchdowns, and quarterback Joe Milton III completed 21 of 30 yards for 201 yards and two TDs.

For Virginia, wide receiver Malachi Fields caught four passes for 63 yards, and Jones and fellow tailback Kobe Pace each rushed for 39 yards. Muskett completed 9 of 17 passes for 94 yards, with no interceptions.

Bettridge, who missed his first field-goal attempt Saturday, connected on his second, a 30-yarder, to make it 14-3 with 1:42 left in the second quarter. But the Volunteers answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive, the final yard coming on a sneak by the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Milton with six seconds to play in the half.

UP NEXT: Virginia’s home opener is next Saturday. In a noon game to air on ESPNU, UVA takes on James Madison at Scott Stadium.

This will be fourth all-time meeting between the programs and the first since 1983, when the Cavaliers defeated the Dukes 21-14 at Scott Stadium. UVA leads the series 2-1.