Smashing start

Smashing start

Vols begin Kiffin era by routing outmanned Hilltoppers

September 6th, 2009 by Wes Rucker in Sports - College

Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Tennessee defenders, including Eric Berry (14), bring down Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Smith during Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium.

Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Tennessee defenders, including Eric...

KNOXVILLE -- The Lane Kiffin era started well Saturday afternoon in Neyland Stadium.

His Tennessee Volunteers rebounded from a nervy first quarter to rout Western Kentucky 63-7 before an enthusiastic crowd of 98,761 for the season opener. It was UT's biggest blowout victory since a 70-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe in 2000.

"I couldn't be happier," All-America safety Eric Berry said. "Well ... I guess it could have been 63-0 or something, but I'm pretty happy. We'll take it."

The Vols outgained WKU 657-83 in offensive yards, and the Hilltoppers gained just 17 yards apart from their lone touchdown drive, which occurred with key UT defensive players on the sideline.

The visitors' first 19 offensive plays lost a combined 21 yards. The Hilltoppers had one first down at halftime, via penalty, and they had minus-4 yards at one point in the third quarter.

"We played one quarter of decent football, and then I think for the next three quarters we were physically dominated. That's disappointing," WKU coach David Elson said. "Their speed on defense ... we were not ready for it."

UCLA promises to bring a more potent threat next Saturday.

"We have a long ways to go and a lot of work to do, and today there were a lot of things that reminded us of how much work that we have to do," Kiffin said. "But to get our first game under our belt, it was exciting.

"The band was awesome. The Vol Walk was unbelievable. And the fans were just so special. It was all really neat."