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Four Quick Takeaways: Tennessee Bounces Back Against Missouri

Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee bounced back from its loss at Georgia by easily handling Missouri, 66-24, at Neyland Stadium.

The Vols were sloppy in the first half allowing Missouri to remain in the game into the early second half. Then Tennessee’s stepped on the gas running away for a blowout victory.

Here’s four quick takeaways.

Bounce Back Game For Hendon Hooker

Hendon Hooker played his worst game in two seasons as Tennessee’s quarterback a week ago at Georgia. After a brief early game mistake, Hooker was fantastic as the Vols’ offense regained their swagger after a rough afternoon in Athens.

Without receiver Cedric Tillman, Hooker was dialed to all his targets. Jalin Hyatt, Bru McCoy and tight end Princeton Fant all put up nice numbers. McCoy turned in his best day since the LSU game, catching nine passes for 111 yards.

Hooker was on time and accurate with the ball throwing out of what often wasn’t a clean pocket. On Senior Day, the super senior quarterback threw for 229 yards and a touchdown while adding a rushing touchdown in the first half.

The Heisman candidate ended his day completing 71% of his passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns.

Hooker was also dynamic with his legs, tallying 50 yards including a read option touchdown and a beautiful speed option keeper.

Tennessee’s offense wasn’t perfect but after a rough game at Georgia, Hooker bounced back and the offense followed with him.

Self Inflicted Mistakes Cost Tennessee In First Half

Tennessee led Missouri, 28-17, at halftime. The score should have been much more lopsided.

Self inflicted mistakes cost the Vols throughout the first half as Missouri remained in striking distance. Let’s start with Hooker’s lone mistake mentioned in the previous section.

Tennessee rolled the dice on fourth-and-four at Missouri’s 27-yard line in the first quarter. Jalin Hyatt ran wide open across the middle but Hooker never saw him, eventually taking a drive ending sack.

Missouri’s ensuing drive led to perhaps Tennessee’s worst mistake of the game. Eliah Drinkwitz was content to kick a field goal on fourth-and-a-foot as 20-point underdogs inside the 10-yard line. Aaron Beasley lined up over the long snapper giving Missouri a new set of downs. One play later, Missouri found the end zone to tie the game.

In the second quarter, Missouri went for it on fourth-and-one at the Tennessee 43-yard line. The Vols had good pressure on the play action pass and Brady Cook under threw the downfield pass. However, Brandon Turnage never found the ball and safety Jaylen McCollough ran into Turnage as Tauskie Dove walked in easily for a touchdown.

Finally, Tennessee led 28-14 and was driving late in the first half. With the Vols receiving the opening kick of the second half, a score would have all but put the game away. Instead, Jalin Hyatt dropped back-to-back wide open passes on second and third and five and the Tigers sacked Hooker on fourth down.

Missouri’s offense capitalized on the stop, getting a field goal before halftime. The Vols could have easily led by three scores at halftime. Instead they led by just 11 points.

More From RTI: Jalin Hyatt Reaches 1,000 Yard Mark

Tennessee Can’t Contain Brady Cook’s Legs

Missouri quarterback Brady Cook had proven to be a capable runner this season, entering the Tennessee matchup with 232 rushing yards.

Cook looked like an elite runner against Tennessee, totaling 106 yards on just 16 carries— two of which were sacks.

Containing quarterback runs was an achilles heel for Tennessee’s defense a season ago but hasn’t cost them badly this season. The Vols limited the run well against strong running quarterbacks Anthony Richardson and Jayden Daniels but Cook made plays for those issues to show up again.

Cook had success on read options, quarterback draws and scrambling when plays broke down. For an offensively challenged Missouri team, Cook’s ability to make something happened when the play broke down was invaluable.

Tennessee ended up spying Cook on third downs in the second half and limiting his success on the ground as the Vols opened up their lead.

Tennessee Slams The Door After Missouri Makes A Run

Missouri carried its momentum from late in the first half into the third quarter. Tennessee punted after penalties derailed its first drive of the second half. The Tigers answered with a touchdown drive capped off by a beautiful 38-yard pass from Cook.

All of a sudden, Tennessee led by just four points in the second half in a game they were favored by 20 points.

The Vols couldn’t have responded any better. Tennessee stepped on Missouri’s throat by scoring 38 straight points before the Tigers passed midfield again.

After the touchdown, Tennessee’s next three drives all went for touchdowns. They took 25 seconds, 41 seconds and 2:20. It was Tennessee’s offense at its best, scoring quickly with ease.

In Missouri’s next three drives, the Tigers tallied just one first down and 20 total yards.

Missouri’s run in the game’s middle 10 minutes made things tight in Knoxville, but Tennessee responded as well as possible to turn it into a blowout.

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