NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- - Joe Milton III threw two touchdown passes and ran for two other scores as the 12th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers routed Virginia 49-13 on Saturday in the season opener for both teams and the Cavaliers' first game in 294 days.
Tennessee and Virginia marked the Cavs' first football game since a shooting left three players dead last November with a moment of silence before kickoff. The Vols also wore a sticker on the back of their helmets with the numbers of the late Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D'Sean Perry.
The Vols improved to 4-1 all-time against Virginia in the first game of this series since the 1991 Sugar Bowl.
Tennessee scored on its opening drive and never trailed. Milton's 1-yard run just before halftime put the Vols up 21-3. Dylan Sampson caught a 9-yard TD pass that capped Tennessee's first drive. He also had three TD runs of 3 yards or less.
James Pearce Jr. had two sacks in the first half for a Tennessee defense that ranked 90th nationally last season while giving up 405.3 yards a game. The Vols finished with four sacks and a 499-202 edge in total yards of offense.
Tony Muskett started for Virginia after transferring from Monmouth and quickly found Southeastern Conference defense is nothing like the Colonial Athletic Association. He was 9 of 17 for 94 yards before being replaced late.
With Tennessee up 28-3, Virginia coach Tony Elliott went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Cavs 34. Muskett was dropped for a 4-yard loss. Six plays later, Sampson ran for a TD that padded the lead.
Tennessee coach Josh Heupel pulled Milton after an 11-yard TD pass to Jacob Warren early in the fourth made it 42-10. Milton finished with 201 yards passing and 33 yards rushing when replaced by five-star recruit Nico Iamaleava.
Virginia: The Cavaliers, who went 3-7 in Elliott's debut season, struggled mightily against a program that went 11-2 and beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The Cavs had their chances starting in Tennessee territory three of the first six possessions only to go three-and-out five times. Will Bettridge also missed a 28-yard field goal to finish a drive that started at Tennessee's 29. The Cavs had only 15 yards of total offense until a drive for the field-goal late in the first half.
Tennessee: The fastest and top-scoring offense in the nation last season worked through some kinks in the first half after opening with a TD drive that took 2:47. Ramel Keyton dropped a deep pass from Milton that hit his hands, and Milton overthrew Keyton on another long pass with plenty of room to run.
Virginia nose tackle Olasunkonmi Agunloye was carted off at the end of the first quarter. He had a sack and recovered a fumbled punt. But he slipped celebrating going to the sideline on Nissan Stadium's new artificial surface, which features shredded coconut husks and cork.
Tennessee certainly didn't do anything to hurt its ranking, even if this neutral site felt like Neyland Stadium West with the largest attendance here for a football game at 69,507.
Virginia: Hosts James Madison on Sept. 9 in its first home game since Nov. 12.
Tennessee: Hosts Austin Peay in its home opener on Sept. 9.