Tennessee exorcised its demons at Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Vols dominated arch rival Florida in the second half to earn a, 38-33 victory. The win was Tennessee’s second over Florida in the last 18 years and moves the Vols to 4-0 and 1-0 in SEC play.
Here’s four quick takeaways on an afternoon Vol nation won’t soon forget.
Hendon Hooker Cements His Legacy
As previously noted, Hendon Hooker was dealing with an upper body injury against the Gators. That didn’t stop the former Virginia Tech transfer from turning in the most impressive performance of his Tennessee career.
Hooker had been shaky to start a few games this season. That was not the case Saturday. Hooker was sharp from the jump, missing just a handful of throws throughout the game.
The super senior quarterback beat Florida with his arms and legs, accounting for 461 total yards.
Hooker completed 21-of-27 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns while totaling a career-high 113 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. As the Vols struggled to get the rushing game going with their running back, Hooker proved to be the bulk of Tennessee’s offense.
Totaling 461 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a win over arch rival Florida? That’s good enough to cement Hooker’s Tennessee’s legacy. It’s not a bad way to kickstart a Heisman campaign either.
Richardson’s Arm Awakens
Three games into his tenure as Florida’s starting quarterback, the book on Anthony Richardson was dangerous runner but a poor passer.
The Vols made him look fantastic with his arm as the sophomore quarterback threw for 454 yards on 24-of-43 passing. Richardson was particularly affected in the first half where he completed 11-of-20 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown.
While Richardson struggled with his accuracy on some short passes, the Gators found plays down the field. Richardson hit four passes over 20 yards and six passes over 15 yards in the first half. That included his 44-yard touchdown strike to Keon Zipperer— Richardson’s first passing touchdown of the season.
Richardson wasn’t as affected passing in the second half but still made enough plays to keep Florida’s offense moving.
Ironically, Richardson made the game’s critical mistake, fumbling in the Tennessee red zone with Florida driving down two scores early in the second quarter.
Tennessee Double Dips Florida
CBS reported Hendon Hooker was dealing with an upper body injury as Tennessee took over at its one-yard line with 2:50 left in the first half. The Vols proceeded to use perhaps the biggest drive of the game to take a lead into halftime.
Prinecton Fant just picked up the first down on third-and-10 deep in Tennessee territory and Ramel Keyton hauled in a spectacular leaping catch one play later to get the Vols in scoring range.
Unreal effort here 😱
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) September 24, 2022
Hooker used his legs to run down to the four-yard line and then the super senior quarterback made a fantastic play, rolling right, pump faking to buy time and firing a dot to Bru McCoy for a go-ahead touchdown.
In a stadium that was anxious from a shaky first half performance, Hooker and the Vols went 99 yards in 12 plays to flip the game’s momentum.
It was just the start of a beautiful double dip.
Coming out of the half, Tennessee went 73 yards in 10 plays capped off by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Hooker. The Vols moved the ball with ease like they did for much of the afternoon. This drive, they had no challenge finishing it off.
Tennessee went from trailing 14-10 to leading 24-14 without Florida’s offense touching the ball. It made for a game changing two drives.
Gators Continuously Roll The Dice
Florida played much of the game with nothing to lose. Deep in Tennessee’s territory or deep in its own territory, Billy Napier did not care. The first year Florida coach was going for it on fourth down.
Tennessee stopped Florida on fourth down on the first drive in the game. The Gators proceeded to convert on four straight to end the game five-of-six on fourth downs.
The Gators played third down to make sure they were in manageable fourth down spots and Florida continually made the big plays.
What could have been the biggest came late in the third quarter when Richardson found Justin Shorter for a 39-yard gain on fourth-and-two at its own 27-yard line.
That drive ended in the aforementioned Richardson fumble and it turned out not to bite the Vols.