Jalen Hurd pounced on quarterback Joshua Dobbs' fumble in the end zone and No. 9 Tennessee overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to escape with a 20-13 victory over Appalachian State on Thursday night.
Appalachian State was trying to stage a repeat of its 2007 upset of No. 5 Michigan, which marked the first time a Football Championship Subdivision program had beaten a Top 25 team. The Mountaineers have since left the FCS ranks and had their first season as a full-fledged Bowl Subdivision member last year.
Tennessee faced third-and-goal from the 2 when Dobbs ran to his right and lost control of the ball as he tried to stretch his arms across the goal line. Hurd won the scramble for the loose ball in the end zone to give the Volunteers their only lead of the night.
Micah Abernathy ended the game by breaking up a pass into the end zone on fourth-and-5 from the 20.
The Vols tied it on Dobbs' 67-yard touchdown pass to Josh Malone with 10:30 left in regulation. Appalachian State redshirt freshman kicker Michael Rubino, who earlier missed an extra point, was wide right on a 42-yard field goal attempt with 5:24 remaining.
Rubino's miss wasted a 57-yard punt return by Jaquil Capel that gave Appalachian State the ball at the 28.
Tennessee entered the season with its highest ranking since 2006 after winning its final six games last year, but the Volunteers looked nothing like a Top 10 team Thursday. The Volunteers committed two first-half turnovers and lost linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin to a targeting penalty in the opening quarter as Appalachian State built a 13-3 lead.
Cam Sutton fumbled on a punt return and Appalachian State's Alex Gray recovered at Tennessee's 36 to set up the first touchdown, a 5-yard keeper from Taylor Lamb barely four minutes into the game. Appalachian State's other touchdown came in the second quarter on a 33-yard completion from Lamb to Cox.