KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- Scores of past Volunteers returned to campus for homecoming, and they were able to glimpse the future of Tennessee football in the Vols' 59-7 rout of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Four Tennessee players scored their first-career touchdowns in the blowout win -- wide receivers Quintin Hancock, Kenny O'Neal, and Gerald Jones, and running back Lennon Creer.
Creer tallied 109 yards and his touchdown on only seven carries, adding his effort to Arian Foster's 100-yard performance to become the first Vol duo to rush for 100 yards each since Gerald Riggs and Cedric Houston performed the feat in 2004.
The Tennessee defense stymied the Ragin Cajuns' option attack, bending at times but only breaking once, on a Lafayette touchdown run early in the third quarter.
For the much-maligned defensive unit, the good easily outweighed the bad, as the Vols intercepted two passes, one of which was returned for a touchdown by defensive lineman Antonio Reynolds.
Erik Ainge put together a quietly efficient performance, going 16-for-23 for 125 yards and a score before giving way to Jonathan Crompton late in the third quarter.
Crompton was impressive in late action, completing three of four passes for 68 yards, including an impressive 49-yard heave to Kenny O'Neal in the fourth quarter.
The Vols will attempt to keep their momentum alive next Saturday when Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) brings its dominant rushing attack to Knoxville.
A detailed game summary follows.
Kenny O'Neal hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from Jonathan Crompton, his first-career TD grab, to give Tennessee a 52-7 lead with 11:24 left in the game.
Freshman Lennon Creer ran 30 yards for his first-career touchdown, putting Tennessee ahead 45-7 with 2:28 left in the third quarter.
The two-play touchdown drive began after Antonio Reynolds sacked Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux and a late hit penalty was called on the Cajuns after the play.
Nevin McKenzie blocked a Cajun punt, and Antonio Wardlow plucked the ball out of the air and ran 16 yards untouched for a Tennessee touchdown with 6:42 left in the third quarter.
After allowing a touchdown on the previous drive, the Vols' defense held the Cajuns to a three-and-out, forcing the punt.
It is the second time Wardlow has scored on a blocked punt -- he blocked a Georgia punt in 2006 and recovered it in the end zone for the score.
Erik Ainge hit Quintin Hancock for a 5-yard touchdown pass, the sophomore receiver's first-career touchdown grab. The 13-play, 65-yard drive took just over five minutes and put Tennessee back in command after a Cajun touchdown briefly brought them within 17.
On the first play of the second half, Louisiana running back Tyrell Fenroy ran 25 yards into Tennessee territory. The Cajuns moved the ball well, going deeper than they had previously gone, finishing the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run by Fenroy.
After halftime, Tennessee announced that Austin Rogers is out of the football game with a shoulder injury.
The announced attendance is 96,197, the first time the crowd has been below 100,000 since the stadium was expanded in 1996.
Tennessee leads Louisiana-Lafayette 24-0 at halftime, fueled by 129 rushing yards and a late interception return for a touchdown by Antonio Reynolds.
The Ragin' Cajuns have been able to move the football, tallying 128 rushinig yards on 23 carries, but have not traveled inside the Tennessee 25-yard line.
Ainge: 8-of-13, 64 yards
Foster: 17 carries, 86 yards, 2 TDs
Hardesty: 8 carries, 43 yards
Taylor: 3 catches, 28 yards
Moore: 2 catches, 17 yards
Jones: 2 catches, 10 yards
Brown: 1 catch, 9 yards
Louisiana kick returner Jason Chery muffed a Britton Colquitt kickoff, recovering the fumble before getting pounded at his own seven-yard line. The Cajuns managed to gain one first down, then ran out the clock to end the half with the Vols ahead, ,24-0.
Tennessee defensive lineman Antonio Reynolds intercepted a tipped screen pass and returned it 70 yards for the score, sidestepping quarterback Michael Desormeaux's attempted tackle and rumbling in for the score with 1:50 left in the first half.
Louisiana-Lafayette was able to move the ball inside Tennessee territory after the Vols score, but was forced to punt, giving Tennessee the ball at its own 10.
On the ensuing Vols possession, the Cajuns held Tennessee for the first time, allowing only 24 yards and bringing punter Britton Colquitt into the game. The junior struck a 46-yard punt, and LaMarcus Thompson brought down the returner for a loss of three yards.
Arian Foster took an Erik Ainge handoff up the middle for four yards and his second score of the day to put Tennessee ahead 17-0 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
The 7-play, 65-yard drive consisted of five rushes -- all by Foster -- and two passes, both to freshman receiver Denarius Moore.
After Foster's first touchdown, the Cajuns were unable to move the football, going three-and-out and giving the ball back to Tennessee at the Vols' 35-yard line.
Two Arian Foster runs got Tennessee into Cajun territory, then two passes to Denarius Moore and another Foster run got the Vols to the three-yard line. On second and goal, Foster took the handoff up the middle for the four-yard touchdown.
Arian Foster plunged over the Lafayette line and into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 10-0 lead with 14:38 left in the first half.
Tennessee took over after a missed Louisiana field goal, and Erik Ainge made his first significant throws of the day. Ainge opened the drive with a nine-yard pass to Chris Brown, then hit Lucas Taylor along the line of scrimmage for a 20-yard pickup. A nine-yard pass to freshman Gerald Jones got the Vols inside the 20.
On fourth and two at the 3-yard line, Ainge handed to Foster on a draw play to net the necessary first-down yardage. Foster finished the job on the next play to make the score 10-0.
The Cajuns drove inside the Tennessee 35-yard line with a frenetic, no-huddle rushing attack, but missed a 49-yard field goal to turn the football over to the Volunteers with 4:30 left in the first quarter.
Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux led the Cajun rushing attack with 34 yards on four carries, but underthrew his intended receiver on third-and-10 to end the drive. Drew Edmiston's field goal attempt fell just short, giving the ball to the Vols at their own 32.
Erik Ainge handed the football to Arian Foster ten times on the Vols' opening drive, moving deep into Louisiana-Lafayette territory to set up a Daniel Lincoln field goal of 24 yards, giving Tennessee a 3-0 lead over the Cajuns with 8:50 left in the first quarter.
The 13-play, 57-yard drive was led by Foster's 49 yards on the ground. Ainge completed one pass for three yards.