Tennessee stayed unbeaten on the season, cruising past instate FCS foe UT Martin, 65-24, Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. The win pushes Tennessee to 7-0 on the season ahead of next week’s matchup against Kentucky.
Here’s four quick takeaways on a lopsided win.
UT Martin Turnovers Lead To Tennessee Opening Up Lead
UT Martin’s offense did some good things in the first half — especially through the air — to move the ball and give themselves a chance to keep the game competitive.
That included a first quarter touchdown drive that tied the game at 7-7. After Tennessee retook the lead on a Princeton Fant touchdown run, UT Martin put together a nice drive into scoring range.
However, walk on corner Wesley Walker baited UT Martin quarterback Dresser Winn while in zone coverage on third-and-12 and jumped the pass for his first interception of the season.
Fast forward to the second quarter. UT Martin held Tennessee to a field goal to keep the Vols lead at 24-7.
Trevon Flowers punched the ball out of Skyhawks’ running back Sam Franklin’s arms on the opening play of the ensuing drive. Jalin Hyatt found the end zone two plays later,
Tennessee was never going to lose to UT Martin, but the Skyhawks two first half turnovers expedited the beat down.
A Short, Record Breaking Day For Hendon Hooker
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker’s day was over before the Vols headed to the locker room at halftime. The super senior quarterback did all his work before that, leading six touchdown drives and a field goal drive.
Hooker was effective as usual, completing 18-of-24 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns while adding 28 yards on four carries. Perhaps his biggest play of the game was scrambling for 22 yards when Tennessee faced third-and-19 at the UT Martin 39-yard line.
Hooker had already etched his name into the Tennessee record books entering his 20th game in Knoxville. He did it again against the Skyhawks. The Virginia Tech quarterback’s first passing touchdown to Ramel Keyton extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 19. That passed Heath Shuler for the longest such streak in program history.
Lead touchdown drives, put up some good stats for his Heisman campaign, break a school record and leave before halftime. A pretty strong afternoon indeed for Hendon Hooker.
More From RTI: Hendon Hooker Breaks Tennessee Program Record
A Lot Of Vols Have Themselves A Day
As the final score indicates, a lot of Tennessee players had themselves a big day against the Skyhawks. Let’s take a look at some of them here.
Tight end Princeton Fant totaled three touchdowns, but none of them were receiving touchdowns. In fact, Fant dropped what would have been a receiving touchdown in the first half. Instead, Fant scored on both of his carries while throwing a 66-yard touchdown to Jalin Hyatt on a double pass.
Hyatt had himself a day as well. The junior continued his dominant performance from last week against Alabama, catching seven passes for 174 yards and a two touchdowns.
With five games left in the regular season, Hyatt is just one touchdown from tying Tennessee’s single season touchdown record and two away from breaking it.
Linebacker Solon Page III had himself a day. With Juwan Mitchell sidelined, Page earned an abundance of playing time from the jump. The redshirt senior totaled two tackles— both of which were tackles for loss. One was a sack.
Tennessee Mostly Stays Healthy
In a 41-point victory, the most important thing is staying healthy. Tennessee didn’t do that earlier this season when both Cedric Tillman and Dylan Sampson exited the Akron game with injuries. While the Vols’ offense keeps thriving, Tillman still hasn’t returned.
The Vols clearly had the mindset of avoiding that Saturday. Seven Tennessee players didn’t play including an abundance that were questionable to play. None of Tennessee’s starters played in the second half either.
Against UT Martin, Tennessee mostly avoided that fate. Brandon Turnage exited the game after hitting the back wall in the end zone hard in the first half but the Vols had no more noticeable injuries.
While Turnage hasn’t played a ton this season, injuries have depleted Tennessee’s cornerback room. The Vols’ top three corners at the start of the season all missed the UT Martin game. Warren Burrell is out for the season while Hadden and Charles could be back next week.
Still, any injury to a Tennessee cornerback is less than ideal.
Defensive tackle Elijah Simmons also exited the game with a lower body injury in the fourth quarter. The Vols have much better depth on the defensive line.