Tennessee defensive back Brian Randolph (37) returns an interception from the end zone as Western Kentucky receiver Joel German (6) tries to tackle him in the second quarter Saturday in Knoxville. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee made the most of Western Kentucky's generosity.
Justin Coleman and Cameron Sutton returned interceptions for touchdowns Saturday and Tennessee scored after each of Western Kentucky's five first-quarter turnovers in a 52-20 victory over the Hilltoppers. Those five turnovers came in a span of six WKU snaps.
"I've never ever been associated with anything like that," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.
Western Kentucky (1-1) finished the day with seven turnovers, including five interceptions by quarterback Brandon Doughty, who was 17-of-34 passing for 222 yards and one touchdown. Brian Randolph picked off two Doughty passes in the end zone.
Tennessee's seven total takeaways represented its highest total since Nov. 10, 1984, when it also forced seven turnovers in a 41-9 rout of Memphis. The Vols hadn't picked off as many as five passes in a game since a 56-21 victory over Kentucky on Nov. 20, 1999.
Doughty was the first Western Kentucky quarterback to throw five interceptions in a game since 1977. The junior had entered the day with one career interception in 59 attempts.
"He's a good learner," Hilltoppers coach Bobby Petrino said, "so he'll learn a lot from this game."
Western Kentucky's flurry of five turnovers in six plays from scrimmage turned an early 3-0 lead into a 31-3 deficit.
The Football Bowl Subdivision record for consecutive turnovers forced by a defense is seven straight series. Florida State had four fumbles and three interceptions in its first seven possessions of a 42-13 loss to Florida on Oct. 7, 1972.
Marlin Lane rushed for 97 yards and one touchdown for Tennessee (2-0). Rajion Neal added 74 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Antonio Andrews ran for 111 yards to lead Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers' inability to take care of the ball cost them an opportunity to beat a Southeastern Conference team for the second straight week. Western Kentucky defeated Kentucky 35-26 in its season opener.
The Hilltoppers outgained Tennessee 236-84 in the first half and controlled the ball for over 20 minutes, yet they still trailed 31-17 at halftime because they already had six turnovers by then.
Doughty threw interceptions to Randolph, Coleman, Sutton and linebacker Brent Brewer. None of them ever had picked off a pass in a college game before Saturday. Brewer also forced a fumble.
On the Hilltoppers' second series, a Doughty pass bounced off the shoulder pad of receiver Taywan Taylor and landed in the arms of Coleman, whose 23-yard return put Tennessee ahead 7-3.
"It was just a play that created great energy and a huge momentum swing," Coleman said. "The pick-six, it was just something (that) I guess you could say the football gods offered because those are basically game rewards for working hard."
Doughty's next pass went directly to Sutton, whose 36-yard return made it 14-3. Tennessee hadn't scored on two interception returns in the same game since Eric Gordon and Prentiss Waggner reached the end zone in a 52-14 rout of Mississippi on Nov. 13, 2010.
"That's normally what we do (after an interception) is come right back out, show we have confidence in him and throw it again," Petrino said. "The first one, there's not a whole lot Brandon can do about it. It was the right read. The ball went into (Taylor's) hands and it popped up. They did a nice job of jumping (the route) in the second one. The ones in the end zone ... you have to know that when we get down to the red zone, you don't throw interceptions. You don't take sacks, you don't take interceptions and you always come away with points on the board."
On the first play of Western Kentucky's next series, Dontavis Sapp stripped the ball from Keshawn Simpson and recovered the fumble at the Western Kentucky 28. That turnover led to Michael Palardy's 23-yard field goal.
The next time WKU snapped the ball, Brewer forced an Andrews fumble that Max Arnold recovered and returned 23 yards to give Tennessee the ball at the Hilltoppers' 12. Two plays later, Neal reached the end zone from 1 yard out.
After the Hilltoppers were called for an illegal block on the ensuing kickoff return, Corey Miller pressured Doughty into throwing a pass that Brewer intercepted at the Western Kentucky 22. That turnover resulted in Lane's 8-yard touchdown that put Tennessee ahead 31-3.
Western Kentucky scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the half, cutting Tennessee's lead to 31-17.
But the Hilltoppers couldn't get any closer.
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