Tennessee Volunteers compete, fall to #4 Alabama, 52-24

Tennessee Volunteers
Photo Courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

The Tennessee Volunteers went on the road and took a top-5 Alabama team into the final quarter. The final score does not depict just how close this game was; the Vols played hard enough to win for all four quarters. So, what happened?

Hendon Hooker continues to impress

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Coming into the season, Tennessee fans were unsure of who was going to be the man under center for the Volunteers. That question has since been answered with the phenomenal play of Hendon Hooker. The Virginia Tech transfer threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns against the ‘Tide, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Tillman.

Hooker kept the Vols in the game all the way into the fourth quarter. He threw his first interception as a starter on a miscommunication with his receiver that put the game out of reach for the Vols and began Alabama’s fourth quarter run. Hooker finished the game 19-28 with 282 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 interception.

The 4th Quarter dooms Vols

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The score was 17-24 in favor of the ‘Tide entering the fourth quarter; it appeared that Tennessee was going to take this game down to the final minutes. Queue the unlikely miscues and iffy officiating. Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young ran the ball in from 6 yards out to open the fourth quarter scoring.

However, Young fumbled the football as he was breaking the plane of the end-zone. After further review, the official confirmed the fumble but said it was recovered by Alabama. The only problem was Makai Hadden of Tennessee came out of the pile with the ball. This call, as well as the Hooker interception, took all the wind out of Tennessee’s upset-minded sails.

The Vols enter a bye week as Josh Heupel gets his first chance to show fans how well his teams prepare for opponents coming off a bye. The Vols will travel to Lexington and play SEC East rival Kentucky November 6th. This bye week is timely as Tennessee looks to get fully healthy for the first time all season.

Score prediction: Tennessee Volunteers 56 Bye Week 0.

Tennessee football looks to continue momentum as they host #13 Ole Miss

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Tennessee football plays host to 13th ranked Ole Miss in what has become the most anticipated match up the Vols have played all season. The Vols play host to the ghost of their past: Ole Miss head coach, Lane Kiffin. Kiffin coached the Vols for only one season in 2009 and is considered a main part in the downfall of Tennessee football. Since Kiffin’s departure in 2009, Tennessee has beat Florida once and has yet to beat Alabama. What does Tennessee have to do to exorcise this demon? I have your answers.

The defense must force turnovers.

Tennessee Football
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So far in the season, Tennessee’s defense has been exceptional in stopping the run; however, Ole Miss offense revolves around quarterback Matt Coral. Coral has thrown for 1,497 yards and 12 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception; add in Coral’s 8 rushing touchdowns and he has an astounding 20 touchdowns in just 6 games this season. If Tennessee is going to come out the victors in this pivotal matchup, they’re going to have to limit Coral’s production and force his first interception of the season.

The offense has to dominate the run game.

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Tennessee has been running the ball at will so far this season. That starts with JUCO transfer running back Tiyon Evans. Evans has rushed for 486 yards and 6 scores, including a 92-yard sprint at Missouri in the Vols’ SEC opener. QB Hendon Hooker has also been a focal point to Tennessee’s rushing attack. The red-shirt senior has piled up 282 yards and 3 touchdowns in 4 games as a starter. Tennessee has been without Jabari Small for the past 3 weeks and it appears that Small will be back for this game against the Rebels.

The injury bug is ceased.

Tennessee played last Saturday’s game against South Carolina with a plethora of injuries. Cooper Mays, Jabari Smalls, Trevon Flowers, and Daneiko Slaughter were just some of the guys that were missing and who are set to make their return to the field this weekend. You never want to have injuries, but the time couldn’t have been better for the Vols. Tennessee got to play Missouri and South Carolina while undermanned. As Tennessee begins to get back healthy, it does so at the best time possible. In the next four games Tennessee plays: #13 Ole Miss, @ #5 Alabama, @ #11 Kentucky, and #1 Georgia. I’m not saying Tennessee will win all of these games, but it will feel good to Heupel and company to have all of their guys back to try and pull off some upsets.

Tennessee football announced that Neyland Stadium has been sold out and will be checkered for the first time since 2017. A lot of excitement is going into this game and could be looked back at as a key win for Heupel and company as they work towards bringing the Vols back to their rightful spot atop the SEC. The Vols can move 5-2 headed to Alabama next weekend and I think that is exactly what will happen.

My score prediction: Tennessee 48, Ole Miss 31.

Tennessee use big first quarter to down South Carolina, 45-20

Tennessee Volunteers
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The Tennessee Volunteers entered this game following an absolute stomping on the road in Columbus last weekend against the Missouri Tigers. The offense picked up right where the Vols left off, and scored 35 straight points — including an early 28-0 first quarter lead. Tennessee had many positives in this game despite a struggle in the second half.

The Tennessee offense keeps humming

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Hendon Hooker once again proved he is the man at Tennessee this season. Hooker completed 17 of his 23 pass attempts with three touchdowns for 225 yards. Hooker also added a rushing touchdown to push his total to four on the day. Running back Tiyon Evans also rushed for 119 yards on 16 carries, including a 45-yard touchdown sprint. Tennessee’s offense scored the first 35 points of the game and showed just how much this Tennessee team has improved since last season.

The Vols defensive depth steps up

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Alabama transfer defensive back Brandon Turnage started the season as the 3rd-string safety on the depth chart. Turnage sat behind Theo Jackson and Daneiko Slaughter for the first five weeks of the 2021 season. However, the Alabama transfer got his opportunity due to injury and ran with it. Turnage finished with 14 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. The Vols defense also benefited from linebacker Aaron Beasley’s fumble recovery. All in all, the Vols defense did everything they needed to win despite having multiple 1st and 2nd string players out with injuries.

With this win, the Vols increase their record to 4-2 (2-1 SEC) on the year. Tennessee plays host to Ole Miss next weekend in a crucial game to Tennessee and Josh Heupel’s plans of long term. Will the Vols be able to keep rolling against Matt Corral and the Rebels? We shall see.

Tennessee vs South Carolina Preview: Vols look to continue momentum

Tennessee vs South Carolina
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Tennessee has played very well to start out the season. Especially if you consider the lack of talent and the situation that first-year head coach Josh Heupel obtained when he came to Tennessee early this year. The Vols are 3-2 (1-1) in the first five games of the Heupel era and have gotten better every game as the weeks go by. The consistent improvement from week to week is something refreshing for Vol fans. 

Tennessee fans have not seen a team get better from week to week in a very long time. Tennessee welcomes the South Carolina Gamecocks to Neyland Saturday to play the Vols fourth noon game of the season. What must Tennessee do vs South Carolina to walk away with a win?

Defense must attack a weak South Carolina offense.

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Fans should expect to see linebackers Jay Blakely and Tyler Baron to have huge days on the defensive end. If you have watched South Carolina on offense this season, you would have seen the majority of their run plays are outside of the tackles. This is due to the lackluster performance from the Gamecocks’ offensive line so far in this season.

South Carolina comes into this game only rushing for 605 yards and with one touchdown. To give some comparison, the Vols had five rushing touchdowns in their blowout win on the road in Columbus last Saturday against the Tigers. Tennessee needs to win the trenches and it starts on the defensive end this Saturday.

The offense must continue to stay fast and aggressive.

Tennessee has moved faster than anyone in the country on offense so far in the 2021 season; a lot of that has to be accredited to the preparation from this coaching staff. Coach Heupel stressed last weekend just how important the final 48 hours leading up to kick-off have been. The synchronization on offense is crucial to the speed the Vols play with.

Furthermore, Senior red-shirt quarterback Hendon Hooker, has handled it nicely in his three and a half games for Tennessee. In fact, you could make a reasonable argument that UT is 4-1 if Hooker gets the start from the get go. Hooker has not turned the ball over in the past 3 games and has looked more composed than any Tennessee QB we’ve saw in the past five years.

The rushing attack, along with Hooker’s playmaking ability, produce a deadly combination for opposing defenses; expect big numbers from the Vols this Saturday against the Gamecocks.

Tennessee enters ‘Dark Mode.’

This isn’t necessarily a key to victory, but the Vols unveiled their new ‘Dark Mode’ jerseys on Wednesday much to the teams and (most of) the fanbase’s delight. Now whether or not you’re a traditionalist, or you don’t care what we wear (like myself), it’s clear to see that the day and age we are in that gimmicks matter. Checker Neyland, smokey greys, and now black uniforms are just a few examples of the Vols attempt at joining the notion.

It helps in recruiting and creates a buzz that simply would not be there. Josh Heupel is in the middle of a culture upheaval and has a lot of work to do to change the brand of Tennessee Football. The players love it, and Coach Heupel has a job to do both on and off the field. If Heupel wants to use uniforms to create excitement and boost recruitment, then I am all for it.

As Tennessee welcomes South Carolina to Neyland stadium this Saturday, the Vols should have zero trouble putting away the Gamecocks early in this ballgame. If Heupel wants to solidify growth and productivity, games like this on vs South Carolina are the ones Tennessee must win.

Tennessee wins vs Missouri on the road, 62-24.

Tennessee vs Missouri
Tiyon Evans celebrates his 3rd touchdown of the game. Photo courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

Tennessee picked up its first SEC and road win of the season under 1st year head coach Josh Heupel vs Missouri. Tennessee sprinted out to a 28-3 at the end of the first quarter and the Vols maintained momentum throughout the game.

The Tennessee rushing game takes off vs Missouri

Tennessee came into this game knowing exactly what Missouri’s defense brought to the table. Quite frankly, it wasn’t much. Missouri allowed over 250 yards of rushing per game coming into this game. The Vols capitalized on this and opened the run game early with running back Tiyon Evans. Evans had 3 rushing touchdowns in the first quarter alone, including a 92-yard sprint on the Vols 3rd scoring drive of the game. Tennessee coach Josh Heupel spoke intently regarding the quality of possessions that Tennessee needed to put together during this game. The guys in orange did just that early and often.

Hooker secures starting spot

Hendon Hooker runs late in the third. Photo courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker proved once again he is the starting quarterback for this Vol football team. Hooker was 15/19 passing for 225 yards and 3 TDs to three different receivers. Hooker also added in 74 rushing yards and another score on the ground. With the QB position up for battle in previous weeks this fall, it’s clear that Hooker has secured that starting spot. Hooker was relieved of his duties late in the 4th quarter and is the presumable starter moving forward on the year.

Tennessee defense steps up

Jay Blakley attacks the Missouri offensive line in the 2nd quarter. Photo courtesy of Vol Football on Twitter.

The Tennessee defense played one of its best games of the season so far. The Vols picked off quarterback Connor Bazelak two times and converted both of them for touchdowns on the offensive end. Once again the rushing defense from the Vols showed out, limiting the Tigers to under 100 yards in the contest. Tennessee also limited RB Tyler Badie to 41 yards on 21 carries. Going into the game the job was presented to this defensive unit and the Vols stepped up in a big way.

As Tennessee moves forward with SEC play, it’s nice to see the Vols put up big points moving forward as well as controlling the tempo of the game from start to finish. The Vols come home to play South Carolina in Neyland stadium, Saturday Oct. 9th at 12:00pm.