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Tennessee senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs helps conduct the Tennessee Waltz after his last game at Neyland Stadium against the Missouri Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee won their final home game of the season 63-43.

KNOXVILLE — It took two miserable performances in a three-week span for Tennessee's offense to click into high gear.

The renaissance was timely, too, given how the Volunteers fell off a cliff defensively.

Since managing only 163 yards against Alabama and scoring just two touchdowns on offense in its crippling loss at South Carolina, Tennessee's 167 points in the past three games against Tennessee Tech, Kentucky and Missouri are the program's most in a three-game span since 1915.

"Right now we have a very good rhythm going, and we have a lot of confidence," coach Butch Jones said after Saturday's 63-37 win in Knoxville. "The other thing is we're staying out of third down-and-long and we're being very, very balanced. Any time you're balanced and you're not one-dimensional, obviously it turns to your favor."

Plenty of credit should go to quarterback Josh Dobbs, too.

The senior giving possibly the worst performance since his freshman season was a primary reason Tennessee lost the game and likely the Southeastern Conference's East Division title at South Carolina, though the seven-turnover defeat in double overtime at Texas A&M is as big a what-if.

Against South Carolina, Dobbs completed just 12 of 26 passes for 161 yards with two interceptions.

Since then, he has feasted on three bad defenses, completing 73 percent (38-of-52) of his passes for 629 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. Against Kentucky and Missouri, Dobbs ran for 337 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 14 yards per carry.

"I don't really see an exit that's better than his," cornerback Rashaan Gaulden said of Dobbs accounting for 413 yards and five touchdowns in his home finale. "He almost went for 200-200. You don't see that a lot in college football. Just his leadership that he's developed here and the relationships, he has all of my respect.

"Him putting his body on the line each and every week, the way he runs, he's fearless. He jumps over piles and does whatever he has to do to lead us. Just having him here, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Dobbs owned up to his poor performance at South Carolina and vowed to teammates he wouldn't let them down again.

"I'm just very confident in myself," he said. "I said it after that game, that that wasn't me and that wasn't the standard I hold myself to when I play week in and week out. My goal is to snap and clear whether I play a good game or whether I have a tough day, to go out and get the next play or get the next game.

"Whatever I did last week had no effect on what I do this week. I understand I still have to prepare at a high level and get ready to go each week. That's my mindset moving forward."

Dobbs had help as Tennessee recorded its first 60-point game against an SEC opponent since 2000.

The offensive line protected well enough for him to complete long touchdown passes to Jauan Jennings and Josh Malone in the first half, and Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and Josh Kelly led Tennessee to 284 rushing yards in the second half. The Vols got a defensive touchdown on Jonathan Kongbo's interception return.

"The one throw to Jauan, (Dobbs) was on his back," Jones said. "He didn't even see the ball completed. I thought he was very poised in the pocket. I thought our receivers were able to win some one-on-one matchups. We knew we'd get man-to-man coverage.

"In the second half, we just felt we needed to run it with all the different defensive looks and movement up front we were seeing."

In conference games, Tennessee ranks second in the SEC behind Alabama in scoring (36.1 points per game) and total offense (458.1 yards per game), and the Vols rushed for 762 yards in their two SEC games since Jalen Hurd left the team. With this week's regular-season finale at Vanderbilt and a bowl game remaining, the Vols will have to continue operating at their current pace on offense to cover for an injury-ravaged defense allowing averages of nearly 36 points and 526 yards in SEC games.

If they win out, the Vols will reach double digits in the win column for the first time since going 10-4 in the 2007 season.

"We still have two more games, and we want to win every single time we step on the field," Dobbs said. "There's still a lot to play for. We're playing for a 10-win season. That hasn't been done at Tennessee in a long, long time. I can't even remember the last time it's happened. There's still a lot to play for."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

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