No. 5 Tennessee Waltzes Past Missouri, 66-24, On Senior Day

~ from UTAD

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – With a sellout Senior Day crowd of 101,915 on hand, No. 5 Tennessee unleashed a school-record offensive performance and scored 38 unanswered points over the final two quarters to waltz past Missouri, 66-24, in its final appearance of 2022 at Neyland Stadium.

The Volunteers, who played in front of their sixth consecutive full house at home for the first time since 2006, improved to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers, meanwhile, fell to 4-6 overall and 2-5 in league play.

UT generated 724 total yards of offense, including 460 through the air and 264 on the ground to break the old mark of 718 set versus Troy in 2012. The Vols managed Saturday’s explosion against a Missouri team that had entered the match-up ranking 13th nationally in total defense, allowing 304.1 yards per game.

The point total by the Big Orange was the most the program has scored against an SEC opponent. The previous high was 65 against Vanderbilt in Nashville in a shutout on Nov. 26, 1994. It also ranked as the third most points produced in the modern era (1933-present) behind a 70-3 home win over Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 23, 2000, and a 68-0 home triumph over Tennessee Tech on Oct. 27, 1951.

The Vols eclipsed 50 points for the fifth time this season, representing the most 50-point games in a single season in school history. The previous record of four occurred in 1914, 1993 and 2015.

The player responsible for igniting Tennessee’s offensive fireworks sizzled in his final game on Shields-Watkins Field. Quarterback Hendon Hooker carded the fourth 300-yard passing effort this season and seventh of his career, finishing 25 of 35 for 355 yards and three touchdowns. The redshirt senior also carried eight times for 50 yards and a score. It was his third game of 400 yards of total offense this season and fourth as a Vol with the 405-yard effort vs. Missouri. He now ranks sixth for total yards in a season at Tennessee with 3,293.

Junior wide receiver Jalin Hyatt finished the day with seven receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season with a 30-yard catch in the second quarter. He now has 58 catches for 1,116 yards in 2022, carding the 10th 1K receiving season in Vol history and becoming the ninth player to accomplish that feat, with Joey Kent the only UT receiver to do so twice.

Hyatt’s 1,116 yards rank third best in a season at Tennessee behind Robert Meachem (1,298, 2006) and Marcus Nash (1,170, 1997) with two games to play in the regular season. With his touchdown reception Saturday, Hyatt also built onto his school record with score No. 15 on the campaign, a number that is tied for the sixth best in SEC history.

Other offensive stars included redshirt junior receiver Bru McCoy, who had his third 100-yard receiving day with 111 on nine catches, and freshman running back Dylan Sampson, who led the ground attack with a career-best 98 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

Redshirt senior tight end Princeton Fant caught two touchdown passes, now giving him scores this season via receiving (2), rushing (4) and passing (1). Junior Jabari Small and sophomore Jaylen Wright also hit paydirt on the ground, contributing 54 and 51 yards to the ground attack, respectively.

The afternoon began with Tennessee forcing Missouri into a three-and-out on its opening possession, and the Vols took over at their own nine due to an illegal block penalty on the punt return. Following key pass plays of 22 and 38 yards from Hooker to redshirt senior tight end Jacob Warren and McCoy, respectively, and a 17-yard scramble from the Vol signal caller, Small capped the 91-yard drive on the seventh play with a 10-yard sprint around the right end. Redshirt senior Chase McGrath added the extra point to make it 7-0 Big Orange with 11:05 left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing drive, Missouri halted Tennessee on a fourth-and-four attempt at the Tiger 32. Mizzou’s offense, energized by that stop, marched 68 yards in nine plays to even the score with 1:56 remaining in the opening stanza. Quarterback Brady Cook pitched left to Luther Burden III, and the speedy wide receiver raced into the end zone from four yards out. Harrison Mevis added the PAT to make it 7-7.

The score didn’t stay knotted for long, as UT needed just over two minutes to retake the lead. After Hyatt snared a 30-yard pass from Hooker down to the three-yard line and eclipsed the 1K receiving mark for his career, Wright burst through the middle of the line and into the checkerboard for his seventh touchdown of the season. McGrath tacked on the extra point to make it 14-7 Vols with 14:41 left in the second frame.

The home team struck again on its fourth possession. With receptions of 14 yards by senior wide receiver Ramel Keyton and 17 by McCoy, sandwiched around a seven-yard Hooker scramble with a 15-yard horse-collar tackle penalty added on, Tennessee quickly moved into scoring position at the MU 19. On the next play, Hooker found Fant in the back corner of the end zone for his first receiving TD of the year to go along with four rushing and one passing. McGrath’s PAT pushed the Big Orange’s lead to 21-7 with 10:24 to go before the half.

Missouri answered and closed the gap to seven with 5:48 remaining in the second stanza. Wide receiver Tauskie Dove hauled in a pass from Cook and eluded two would-be tacklers on his way to a 43-yard score. Mevis booted the extra point to cut UT’s lead to 21-14.

Hooker and company made quick work in restoring the lead to 14, needing only 1:42 to check that box. With 59 of the drive’s 75 yards coming on the ground, including rushes of 26 from Small and 19 by Wright, Hooker put the finishing touches on it with a 14-yard option keeper. McGrath’s kick made it 28-14 Tennessee with 4:06 left before the intermission.

After stopping a Vols drive on fourth-and-five late in the second quarter, Missouri took over at its own 41. On the second play, Cook scrambled 40 yards down to the UT 19 to put the Tigers in position for points. Mevis came on three plays later to boot a 32-yard field goal to send his team into the locker room trailing Tennessee, 28-17.

At the half, the Vols had 368 yards of total offense, including 229 passing on a 17-of-24 effort by Hooker. He also led Tennessee’s 136-yard rushing effort with 57 on six carries. McCoy nearly had 100 yards receiving in the opening 30 minutes, hauling in a career-high-tying seven balls for 91 yards.

Tennessee was limited to one first down on its opening drive of the second half before punting the ball back to Missouri. The Tigers took over at their own 15 and marched 85 yard in eight plays. A 38-yard pass from Cook to receiver Dominic Lovett and a Mevis PAT cut UT’s advantage to 28-24 with 8:55 to go in the third quarter.

With MU starting to have visions of a possible upset, the Vols responded promptly in big-play fashion and methodically put the Tigers away. A 68-yard catch and run by Hyatt from Hooker and a McGrath extra point pushed the lead back to 11 just 25 seconds later at 35-24 with 8:30 left in the third.

After UT’s defense forced another Mizzou punt, the Vol offense wasted little time padding the lead. With bursts of 42 and 15 yards on the ground from Sampson speeding up the process, Tennessee needed only three plays and 41 seconds to go 69 yards. A two-yard Hooker to Fant TD toss put the finishing touches on it. McGrath’s PAT made it 42-24 with 4:34 left on the clock in the third frame.

Another Mizzou three-and-out was followed by another UT score. Wright pounded it in from the one for his second score of the day to cap an eight-play, 67-yard trip down the field that featured 23 yards of it on the ground by Wright and 17 from Sampson. McGrath’s kick pushed the score to 49-24 Vols with 1:19 remaining in the third period.

After Doneiko Slaughter recovered a Missouri fumble at the Tigers 30, Tennessee was able to produce three more points via a field goal. McGrath was good from 48 yards to push the score to 51-24 with 7:54 left in the game.

Redshirt senior quarterback Joe Milton III came on in relief of Hooker with 6:10 to go in the game and looked sharp in directing the Vols to a pair of touchdowns. He finished 3-of-3 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown.

On his second snap under center, Milton connected with Keyton for a 46-yard TD pass. Toby Wilson drilled the extra point to make the scoreboard read 59-24 Big Orange with 5:43 left in the game.

Milton was just as sharp on his second possession at the helm, leading Tennessee to the end zone in just five plays. His 58-yard pass to Squirrel White set the Vols up at the Missouri one-yard line. Two plays later, Sampson squirted up the middle for a touchdown. Wilson’s PAT made it 66-24 with 2:30 to go, and that’s the way it would end.

The Vols hit the road next weekend to take on South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The contest will be played on Saturday night, with the game kicking at either 7 p.m. ET on ESPN or 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.