KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Fourth-ranked Tennessee got through a non-conference tuneup in workmanlike fashion, cruising to a 26-3 victory over Middle Tennessee in the first meeting between the schools.
Casey Clausen completed 24-of-29 passes for 263 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Cedric Houston rushed for 74 yards and a score on 13 carries.
Tennessee (2-0), which has a bye next week before facing Florida on September 21, opened a 17-0 lead at the intermission, then relied on its defense in the second half.
The Volunteers allowed only a 45-yard field goal to Brian Kelly 41 seconds into the final quarter.
The Blue Raiders (0-2) stayed close, but could not mount much of an attack against the Volunteers' defense, which accounted for the final nine points of the game.
"I was proud of the win, proud of the defense and special teams," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "The special teams will give us a chance to be in games. Offensively, we played well at times."
Defensive back Jabari Greer blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety that made it 19-3 with 9:19 remaining.
"Everyone's out there busting their butts, flying around," Greer said. "Good things happen with the great effort we gave."
On Middle Tennessee's next possession, quarterback Andrico Hines fumbled and linebacker Kevin Simon recovered in the end zone for a touchdown with 5:27 left.
"Kevin was a nationally recruited player," Fulmer said. "He was ready for the opportunity. He is very tough and fast linebacker."
Hines completed 13-of-23 passes for just 109 yards and also was the leading rusher for the Blue Raiders with 63 yards on 19 carries.
Tennessee allowed just 100 yards on the ground and held a 400-209 edge in total offense.
"We took two of the top teams in America to the fourth quarter with a chance to win," said Middle Tennessee coach Andy McCollum, referring to last week's 39-34 loss to Alabama. "Tennessee closed the door and finished the game."
The Volunteers were their own worst enemy at times as they twice fumbled in the second quarter and Phillip Newman missed a pair of field goals in the third quarter. Tennessee needed to punt just twice in the entire contest.
Clausen, on target throughout, hit Jason Witten for a 40-yard completion on Tennessee's first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, the Volunteers took the lead on Houston's TD scamper.
"We were able to move the ball down to the 15- or 10-yard line, but for whatever reason, we self-destruct," Clausen said. "I think a lot of things will change in the next couple weeks when (receiver) Kelly (Washington) comes back. And he will be back."
Tennessee drove 53 yards on 11 plays to take a 14-0 lead on Clausen's 10-yard TD pass to Witten with five seconds left in the first period.
Early in the second quarter, Rashad Baker recovered Hines' fumble at the Middle Tennessee 36, leading to Newman's 35-yard field goal with 10:14 left in the half.