KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Tyler Bray threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns and Rajion Neal rushed for a career-high 151 yards Saturday night as Tennessee pulled away in the second half for a 47-26 victory over Akron.
Bray’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Neal with 6:47 left in the third quarter broke a 23-23 tie and put the Volunteers (3-1) ahead for good. After giving up the game’s final 24 points last week in a 37-20 loss to Florida, Tennessee ended Saturday’s game on a 17-0 run and finished the night with 633 yards of total offense.
Bray also threw touchdown passes to Brendan Downs, Justin Hunter and Jacob Carter, though he also had one interception that was returned for a touchdown by Akron’s Avis Commack. Downs and Carter scored their first career touchdowns, while Hunter caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Akron (1-3) headed into Neyland Stadium on a 21-game road losing streak and had been outscored 256-19 in its five previous games with Southeastern Conference opponents, but the Zips gave Tennessee all it could handle. With his legendary father, Bobby Bowden, watching from the Akron section of the stands, Zips coach Terry Bowden displayed the acumen that helped him post a 47-17-1 record at Auburn from 1993-98.
Although they were outgained 368-202 in the first half, the Zips continually capitalized on Tennessee mistakes and went into halftime tied 23-23.
Akron seemed ready to regain the lead after driving to Tennessee’s 15 on its first possession of the second half, but Moore picked off a pass intended for Tyler Williams near the goal line for his second interception of the night.
Tennessee got an even bigger break later in the third quarter when a fumble by tight end Mychal Rivera was overturned on replay. When officials determined Rivera was down before losing the ball, it allowed Tennessee to maintain possession on the Akron 36. The Vols drove down the field from there and scored a tiebreaking touchdown on Bray’s pass to Neal.
Akron wouldn’t go away.
The Zips cut the lead to 30-26 with 14:50 remaining when Robert Stein connected on a 37-yarder for his fourth field goal of the night. That kick was made possible by Bowden’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 40, as Jawon Chisholm dove 2 yards to keep the drive going.
Derrick Brodus answered with a 28-yard field goal—his fourth of the night — on Tennessee’s next drive to extend the lead to seven again.
This time, Akron wouldn’t respond.