KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — One month after it seemingly couldn't have found the end zone with a compass, Tennessee is scoring virtually at will.
Consider it the Joshua Dobbs effect.
Dobbs threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score Saturday in his second start of the season as Tennessee trounced Kentucky 50-16 to continue its mastery of this annual series. The sophomore quarterback even led Tennessee's band in a postgame version of "Rocky Top."
"Winning and playing good football have really helped with confidence definitely (for) not only me but with the offense as a whole," Dobbs said. "We're definitely jelling right now. We've got to keep it going."
Jalen Hurd rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown as Tennessee (5-5, 2-4 SEC) beat Kentucky (5-6, 2-6) for the 29th time in their last 30 meetings. Kentucky lost its fifth straight overall in a matchup between two teams chasing their first bowl bids since 2010.
The Volunteers can become bowl eligible by beating Missouri at home next week or by winning at Vanderbilt on Nov. 29. Kentucky, which has next week off, must win Nov. 29 at Louisville to have a shot at a bowl bid.
"It would mean the world," Dobbs said. "I know that Tennessee hasn't been to a bowl game in a while, and that's not something that Tennessee and the program is used to."
Tennessee's offense continued a late-season surge that has coincided with Dobbs' emergence. Tennessee had failed to score a touchdown in back-to-back SEC games against Florida and Ole Miss earlier this season. The Vols have scored 95 points in Dobbs' two starts, their highest total in back-to-back SEC games since 2003.
The Vols had to change quarterbacks last month after Justin Worley tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder, knocking him out for the remainder of the season. After Nathan Peterman played the first two series of a 34-20 loss to Alabama on Oct. 25, Dobbs took over and hasn't looked back.
Dobbs rallied Tennessee to a 45-42 overtime victory at South Carolina two weeks ago while setting a single-game school rushing record for a quarterback and becoming the first Vol ever to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 yards in the same game. He showed Saturday that performance against South Carolina was no fluke.
On Tennessee's opening possession, Dobbs flipped a short pass that Von Pearson turned into a 21-yard touchdown. Dobbs connected with Pearson again for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Dobbs threw a career-long 52-yard touchdown completion to Jason Croom.
After Kentucky took an early 3-0 lead, Tennessee scored the game's next 30 points.
"This football team's different," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Their whole mindset's different. I always gauge it by our players (are) show up early for practice, and they're always late to leave. ... We're building something special here."
The Vols capitalized on an injury to Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles, who was largely responsible for setting up the field goal on Kentucky's opening possession, left the game during the Wildcats' second series. Kentucky's offense wasn't the same without him. m
On Kentucky's third drive, cornerback Justin Coleman hit redshirt freshman Reese Phillips just as he attempted a pass, resulting in an errant throw that safety Brian Randolph caught and returned 23 yards for Tennessee's first defensive touchdown of the season.
By the time Towles got back into the game early in the second quarter, Kentucky trailed 20-3. His return couldn't stop Tennessee's momentum.
Kentucky has allowed 113 points over its last two contests — the first time since 1994 it has given up at least 50 points in back-to-back weeks — and has dropped five straight games by an average margin of 25.6 points.
"The effort was there," Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said. "It was just executing at times. Missed tackles again. Every time the play happened, we were in the right spot. We just didn't make the play."
The news wasn't all good for the Vols.
Randolph was ejected for a targeting penalty in third quarter, which will prevent him from playing the first half of the Missouri game. Tennessee center Mack Crowder left with an injury in the second half.
"I'll know a little bit about Mack later," Jones said. "It may be a knee. I'm not sure."