KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - Erik Ainge passed for 335 yards and four touchdowns and Lamarcus Coker added 150 all-purpose yards and two scores as Tennessee scalped the Arkansas State Indians, 48-27, at Neyland Stadium Saturday.
While the offensive firewords for both teams were reminiscent of Boomsday, two defensive plays sealed the Vols' victory. Interceptions by Brent Vinson and Marsalous Johnson led to touchdown drives that allowed Tennessee to cruise to victory.
But the win was not without its flaws. The Vols surrendered 327 yards of total offense to the Indians and allowed an opponent to score a defensive touchdown for the third time in four games when Tyrell Johnson intercepted an Ainge pass and returned it 56 yards for a score.
The Vols improve to 2-2 with the victory, while Arkansas State falls to 1-2. Tennessee has a bye week next Saturday, then plays host to Georgia the following weekend.
A detailed game summary follows.
Erik Ainge found Lucas Taylor, who ducked his defender and dashed into the end zone to give Tennessee a 45-27 advantage with 13:37 remaining.
Score: Tennessee 45, Arkansas State 27
Reggie Arnold plunged into the end zone from two yards away to shorten Tennesee's lead to 38-27 six seconds into the fouth quarter.
On the key play of the drive, tight end end David Johnson hauled in a Corey Leonard pass and rumbled 48 yards inside the Tennessee 5. Then, on second and goal, Reggie Arnold burrowed into the end zone to get the Indians within ten.
Score: Tennessee 38, Arkansas State 27
The Vols capitalized on a Marsalous Johnson interception, as Lamarcus Coker dashed 2 yards into the end zone to give Tennessee a 38-20 lead with less than 7 minutes left in the third quarter.
On the third play of the short drive, Ainge hit Chris Brown to convert on third and short. On third and goal from the two, Lamarcus Coker darted into the end zone.
Score: Tennessee 38, Arkansas State 20
Tennessee leads Arkansas State, 31-17, at halftime in a game full of big offensive plays.
Erik Ainge completed 20 of 30 passes for 267 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and Lamarcus Coker led the Vols on the ground with 40 yards in the first half. Tennessee piled on 349 yards of total offense and allowed 184 yards to the Indians.
The Vols' defensive front tallied 2 sacks on Indians quarterback Corey Leonard, who finished the half 10-for-16 for 113 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
"He's a good quarterback and we've gotten good pressure on him, coach Phillip Fulmer told Rick Russo at halftime. "But we've not tackled as well as we would like at times."
Score: Tennessee 31, Arkansas State 14
Arian Foster carried the ball six yards into the end zone to give Tennessee a 31-14 lead with one minute left in the first half.
Brent Vinson intercepted a Corey Leonard pass after Jerod Mayo flushed him out of the pocket. On third down for the Big Orange, Ainge found Taylor for 18 yards to the Indians 22. On the next play Ainge hit Rogers for a 12-yard pickup, and a face mask penalty brought the Vols to the Arkansas State 6-yard line. Arian Foster finished the job, feeling his way through the Indians defensive front and surging into the end zone for the score.
An untouched Lamarcus Coker took an Erik Ainge screen pass 25 yards into the end zone to give Tennessee a 24-14 lead with 2:21 remaining in the first half.
Score: Tennessee 24, Arkansas State 14
Tyrell Johnson intercepted an Erik Ainge pass and returned it 56 yards to narrow Tennessee's lead to 17-14 with 9:13 left in the first half.
Tennessee forced an Indian punt, and the Vols took over at their own 19. A third-down connection to Chris Brown got the ball to the 35, and Lennon Creer carried the ball twice to creep into Arkansas State territory. But on third and three, Tyrell Johnson intercepted an Ainge pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to make the score 17-14.
Score: Tennessee 17, Arkansas State 14
A 29-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal gave Tennessee a 17-7 lead with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Vols held Arkansas State to a three-and-out, forcing a punt. Jonathan Hefney lost two yards on the punt return, and Tennessee started the drive at its own 33-yard line. Lamarcus Coker took the first-down handoff 14 yards to move the chains. On second down, Ainge found Josh Briscoe for 26 yards to the Indians 28. The Vols' drive stalled at the Arkansas State 12, and Daniel Lincoln hit the 29-yard field goal attempt.
A 15-yard touchdown pass from Erik Ainge to Chris Brown gave Tennessee a 14-7 lead with 6:29 left in the first quarter.
Ainge's second touchdown pass of the day came on an 89-yard drive. After an ill-conceived return by Lamarcus Coker, Tennessee started the next at its own 11, but on the first play Ainge hit Austin Rogers for a 23-yard pickup. On the next play, Ainge threw to Jeff Cottam for a 16-yard gain. Then Ainge hit Lamarcus Coker for 24 yards as the Vols continued to roll. After a short run and an incomplete pass to Rogers, Ainge found Chris Brown on a screen, but Brown fumbled the football and the Indians' Tyrell Johnson recovered; however, the play was reviewed and Brown was deemed to be down on the play, ushering in fourth down and the Lincoln field goal attempt. The 37-yard attempt was good, but Arkansas State was called for running into the kicker, resulting in a first down. On the next play, Ainge found Chris Brown in the end zone for the 15-yard score.
Score: Tennessee 14, Arkansas State 7
A 6-yard pass from Indians quarterback Corey Leonard to receiver Chris Miller tied the game at 7 with 9:22 left in the first quarter.
Arkansas State returned the kickoff 36 yards to its own 45-yard line. On first down from the Tennessee 49, Indians quarterback Corey Leonard hit Levi Dejohnette for a 45-yard gain to the Tennessee 4. On third down from the 6, Leonard found Miller for the game-tying score.
Score: Tennessee 7, Arkansas State 7
A 27-yard Erik Ainge touchdown pass to Lucas Taylor put Tennessee ahead, 7-0, on the opening drive of the game.
Tennessee took the opening kickoff to its own 36-yard line to start the game. Arian Foster ran the ball twice to move the chains. A one-handed grab by Lucas Taylor covered 24 yards and gave Tennessee a first down inside Indian territory. A third-down pass from Ainge to Austin Rogers was incomplete, but officials called pass interference on the Arkansas State defensive back . On the next play, Lucas Taylor hauled in his third catch of the drive, lunging into the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown connection to put the Vols on the scoreboard.