No. 5 Tennessee capped the home slate in style.
The Volunteers rolled to a school-record offensive performance to take a 66-24 victory over Missouri inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
It is the first time since 2007 that the Volunteers have gone undefeated at home in a season.
“I just want to say thank you to our fanbase – It is the first time we have gone undefeated at home as a program in quite a while,” Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel said. “Their energy, the way that they have supported us, and the way that they have shown up every week has been a huge part of our success as a program here at home. Our players, our staff, and myself absolutely love seeing them. You guys have heard me say the Vol Walk is the most special thing and the most unique thing in college sports. I truly believe that.”
“Obviously, when Neyland is rocking, it is unsurpassed by anybody”
The packed Neyland Stadium saw the Tennessee offense put on a show as the Vols rolled to 724 total offensive yards – an eye-popping number that came against a defense that entered the game ranked 13th in total defense.
“The statement for us is that we are a good football team playing good football,” Heupel said. “What the scoreboard ultimately ends up being and what people down the line might judge us for, we are out of control of some of those things. There were a lot of things that were good in the first half. There were some things that were not. Offensively, in all three phases, our best football is still out in front of us. I am proud of the fight, the competition, the ability to reset in the second half, and the way our guys went out and competed in all three phases. It was a good win.”
Senior Hendon Hooker went 25-of-35 passing for 355 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 50 rushing yards on eight carries.
“I think his energy and his ability to speak to his teammates throughout the course of the week and early in the week is a part of our guys’ ways in handling it to respond the right way,” Heupel said of Hooker. “Great teams have great leadership from within the locker room. We have really strong leadership. Hendon being as strong as anybody. He affects this program in such a positive way. Being able to reset from last week, he’s a huge part of that.”
Jalin Hyatt had 146 receiving yards on nine catches, while Bru McCoy had nine catches for 111 yards.
On the ground, Dylan Sampson led the way with 98 yards on eight carries, while Jabari Small had 54 yards on nine carries.
Tennessee opened the scoring as Small scored on a 10-yard run, but the Tigers answered late to tie things up at 7-7 after a quarter of play.
Two plays into the second quarter, Jaylen Wright had a three-yard touchdown run – a score that was set up by an impressive grab from Hyatt.
After a strong defensive series, Princeton Fant caught a 19-yard pass from Hooker in the corner in the endzone as the Vols pushed the lead to 21-7.
Missouri closed the lead to seven with 5:48 left in the half as Brady Cook hit Tauskie Dove for a 43-yard score.
Tennessee countered with a 14-yard touchdown run from Hooker.
Missouri ended the half with a 32-yard field as the Vols held a 28-17 advantage at the half.
The Tigers opened the second quarter scoring as Cook hit Dominic Lovett for a 38-yard score that pulled MU within four points with 8:55 left in the third.
Cook finished 19-of-32 for 217 yards to lead the Tigers.
From that point, it was all Tennessee.
The Vols reeled off 38 unanswered points – including touchdown catches from Hyatt and Fant along with a one-yard run from Wright – to leave no doubt.
“There were some things that they have done,” Heupel said. “When you look at them defensively and what they have done here throughout the course of the season, that is a really good defense. It’s one of the top ones in this conference. There are some things that they did that hurt us. There were some things that we did, too, on the offensive side of the football.”
Tennessee added a Chase McGrath field goal, a 46-yard touchdown pass from Joe Milton III to Ramel Keyton, and a two-yard run from Dylan Sampson in the final 15 minutes to account for the final score.
Tennessee ended the game with 33 first downs while limiting Missouri to just 16. Tennessee outgained the Tigers 724-389.
The Vols now turn their attention to South Carolina as Tennessee is set to end the second with two straight road games.