Coming off a tough 27-13 loss at Georgia, “our guys re-set,” said Tennessee Coach Josh Heupel. They did so by racking up a school-record 724 offensive yards to beat Missouri 66-24. “That was the step that we had to take, coming off the tough loss,” said receiver Jalin Hyatt.
After the game, quarterback Hendon Hooker climbed a ladder to lead the Pride of the Southland Band. “That has always kind of been a dream for me,” said Hooker, “just coming here and seeing Peyton [Manning] stand up there and conduct the band. I always thought that was the coolest thing ever to be able to strike up the band.”
By its own standards, UT’s No.1-in-the-nation offense took a while to warm up.
Running back Jabari Small ran 10 yards for the first TD. Hyatt grabbed a 30-yard Hooker pass that set up a three-yard pass to running back Jaylen Wright to put the score at 14-7.
In the second quarter, tight end Princeton Fant brought down Hooker’s 19-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone to put UT up 21-7. Afterward, he blew a kiss to his daughter. “My daughter is my everything, my world,” said Fant, a sixth-year redshirt senior playing his last home game as a Vol. “She has fun every time she’s out there.”
On UT’s next series, running back Jabari Small busted a 26-yard run. Jaylen Wright busted one for 19 yards. And Hooker ran 14 yards to make it 28-14.
The Volunteers’ offense caught fire midway through the third quarter, when Hooker hit Hyatt streaking down the left sideline for a 68-yard touchdown to make the score 35-24. “I was hiding behind our left guard,” said Hyatt with a grin. “I saw the corner follow Bru, and it was pitch and catch. Coach Mitch [Militello, the offensive analyst] came up with the play.”
“I heard someone on the sideline say, ‘Too easy,’” said Hooker. “I thought that was fun.”
On UT’s next possession, freshman running back Dylan Sampson exploded for a 42-yard run up the middle, then for 15 yards. “He is dynamic with the ball in his hands,” said Heupel. After a couple of Missouri penalties, Fant scored on a two-yard pass to the right side of the end zone—42-24.
On the Vols’ next drive, Wright ran five times in a row, capped by a one-yard TD run to make it 49-24. A UT field goal made it 52-24.
In the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Joe Milton III ran for 11 yards around the right side, then threw a tightly spiraled rope to receiver Ramel Keyton streaking from right to left on a post pattern for a 46-yard touchdown—59-24.
On the next series, Sampson went around the right side for 20 yards to the Missouri 41. From there, Milton threw another rope to freshman receiver Squirrel White at the 1. Officially a gain of 58 yards, the pass traveled about 65 yards. “He showed that rocket arm,” said Hooker. “We’re peas in a pod.” Sampson ran it in for the final score of 66-24.
“Our best football is still out in front of us,” said Heupel, looking ahead to road games at South Carolina and Vanderbilt.