KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Despite a number of players missing in action from the field, Tennessee took care of business, shutting out Tennessee Tech, 56-0. Hendon Hooker made his first career start at UT against in-state foe Tennessee Tech after Joe Milton III was ruled inactive.
A lengthy number of Vols were sidelined, unavailable to suit up against the Golden Eagles including Tennessee’s leading rusher Jabari Small and starting center Cooper Mays.
- Tennessee players unavailable:
- Joe Milton III
- Jabari Small
- Cooper Mays
- La’Trell Bumphus
- Da’Jon Terry
- Bryson Eason
- Juwan Mitchell
An early penalty on the Vols first drive of the game called back what would have been a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown by Velus Jones Jr., instead Tennessee had to punt it away.
The defense, however, quickly got the ball back in the Vols’ hands forcing a Tennessee Tech three-and-out on the Golden Eagle’s opening drive.
With the ball back in his hands, Hendon Hooker hit Mississippi State transfer wide receiver JaVonta Payton for his first career touchdown in orange and white. Hooker’s 29-yard connection with Payton gave the Vols its first score of the game on its second drive, 7-0.
Tennessee’s defense forced back-to-back three-and-outs, but Hooker failed to convert on fourth down on their third drive of the game, having to turn it over on downs.
But the Vols quickly made up it.
Jaylen McCollough intercepted Tennessee Tech quarterback Willie Miller’s pass up the middle, his first career interception, and the first turnover created by the Vols defense. Tennessee converted the turnover into a touchdown. Freshman running back Jaylen Wright recorded his second career touchdown after punching it from a yard out to put the Vols up, 14-0 in the first quarter.
It was more of the same in the second quarter. Jones Jr. finally recorded his first touchdown of the season after catching a short pass from Hooker, beating the Tennessee Tech secondary in a foot race up the sideline to the end zone to extend UT’s lead, 21-0.
The Vols capped off its fourth scoring drive of the first half with a touchdown pass from Hooker to a wide-open Jacob Warren in the end zone on the play-action to make it, 28-0.
Tennessee continued to pour it on following the break.
Hooker capped off an eight-play, 49-yard scoring drive by calling his own number for his first rushing touchdown in orange and white to extend the Vols lead, 35-0.
Tennessee player “firsts” remained a consistent theme.
Linebacker Solon Page III intercepted the ball on Tennessee Tech’s second drive of the third quarter and returned it for 6. Page’s first career interception helped extend the Vols’ lead, 42-0.
Tennessee’s offense did not slow down. The Vols’ third-quarter scoring capped off with a Tiyon Evans dive into the end zone, 49-0. The 21 points scored in the third quarter prompted a change at quarterback giving sophomore Harrison Bailey his first playing time of the season.
Bailey recorded his first touchdown of the season with a 2-yard quarterback keeper to make it 56-0.
The Vols found the checkerboard eight times, scoring the most points on the season so far. The Vols racked up 410 yards of offense while limiting Tech to just 172. Hooker finished 17-of-25 passing for 199 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the Vols in rushing with 64 yards on nine attempts and had a touchdown.
Bailey was 3-of-7 passing for 16 yards. He ran the ball four times for 8 yards and a touchdown.
The Vols remain undefeated against Tennessee Tech (7-0) and have now won 29 straight games at Neyland Stadium against in-state, out-of-conference rivals.
Up Next: Tennessee hits the road for the first time of the season, opening SEC play in Gainesville against Florida.