KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee scored on its first six possessions and held South Alabama to seven first half points as the Vols ran over the Jaguars 60-14 to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2019.
The Vols struck first with an eleven play 62 yard drive capped by a Jabari Small one yard touchdown plunge to give them a 7-0 lead with 11:13 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tennessee ground game continued to thrive on its next offensive possession. Freshman Jaylen Wright found the checkerboard for the first time since September 18 against Tennessee Tech, taking his first carry of the game 17 yards to the end zone to give the Vols a 14-0 lead with 6:14 remaining in the 1st quarter.
The Vols found the end zone again in the 2nd quarter when Hendon Hooker connected with Cedric Tillman on a 27 yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 21-0 lead with 10:37 to play in the first half.
Hooker was effective under center finishing 17/20 for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s now thrown a touchdown pass in ten straight games, tied for the sixth longest streak in program history.
Tillman continued to impress at receiver, the 2nd quarter touchdown catch marked his fifth game in a row with at least one touchdown catch. That’s the longest streak for a UT player since Josh Malone did it in 2016. He finished the game with 5 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
The Tennessee offense continued its explosiveness in the 2nd quarter when Hooker connected with tight end Princeton Fant for a 24 yard touchdown. Fant is the 8th different receiver to catch a touchdown pass from Hooker this season. Vols led 28-0 with 6:41 to play in the half.
After the Jaguars got on the board with a touchdown, Velus Jones Jr. responded with a 96 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give Tennessee a 35-7 lead.
Jones Jr. finished the day with 6 catches for 103 yards receiving.
South Alabama converted on an onside kick to open the second half, but the Tennessee defense held them to a three and out. The Vols offense then responded with a seven play 84 yard drive capped by a Jabari Small three yard touchdown run.
Small finished the game with 11 carries for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns. Small found the endzone multiple times for the first time in his career.
Later in the quarter, the Tennessee offense struck again, Hooker scored his 5th rushing touchdown of the season capping an eight play 64 yard drive that took up 2:57 to give the Vols a 49-7 lead with 7:29 to play in the 3rd quarter.
Backup quarterback Joe Milton entered the game in the 4th quarter and led the Vols on a six play 80 yard drive capped by a Len’Neth WHithead five yard touchdown run to give Tennessee a 56-7 lead.