From the opening kickoff it was all Tennessee as the eighth-ranked Volunteers picked up their third ranked victory of the season, dominating 25th-ranked LSU, 40-13, at Tiger Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) posted 503 yards of total offense and did so with balance, picking up 272 rushing yards and 239 passing yards and the defense made critical plays when it needed too. The Vols forced LSU (4-2, 2-1 SEC) into turnovers on the opening kickoff and their last play from scrimmage and stuffed all three Tiger fourth down plays.
Redshirt-senior quarterback Hendon Hooker was marvelous yet again, tossing two touchdowns, both to Jalin Hyatt, and rushing for 56 yards on 10 attempts. The captain has been incredible in the 2022, upping his season totals to 1,432 yards passing and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. Hooker’s efforts were matched by Jabari Small on the ground and both Bru McCoy and Hyatt in the pass-game.
Small, the bell cow of the rushing frenzy, accumulated 127 yards on 22 attempts and punched in two rushing touchdowns. The Memphis, Tennessee, native eclipsed 100 yards on the ground for the first time this season and has scored six times out of the backfield.
McCoy had a career day, gaining 140 receiving yards and passing the century mark for the second time in as many games. He caught seven passes and recorded 70 yards after the catch in the victory. Hyatt matched McCoy’s effort in the slot, reeling in four passes for 63 yards and pair of house calls in Baton Rouge.
The strong defensive effort was highlighted from an impressive day by edge rusher Byron Young who recorded 2.5 sacks, all coming in clutch spots. All three sacks came on either third or fourth down, with the most critical being the 4th and 10 takedown of LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels for an eight-yard loss that allowed Tennessee to get in field goal position at the end of the first half. Senior safety Trevon Flowers capped the victory with his second interception of the season with nine seconds left in the contest, snaring the back-corner fade in the endzone.
The onslaught began with the opening kickoff as LSU returner Jack Bech muffed the kick, which was recovered by Will Brooks at the 27-yard-line. Then, it would take just five plays for the Vols to punch in the opening score of the game. Small plunged into the endzone from a yard out, and Tennessee claimed a 7-0 advantage just 1:14 into the contest.
The Big Orange defense capitalized on the early momentum, forcing a three-and-out on LSU’s first offensive possession and the spectacular special teams set up yet another score. Dee Williams, a junior college transfer playing his first Division I snap, fielded the Tigers’ punt at his own 16. He made some would-be tacklers miss and picked up key blocks downfield to return the punt 58 yards to the LSU 26-yard line. Chase McGrath finished the drive by banging through a 35-yard field goal, and not even four minutes into the contest, the Vols held a 10-0 lead.
LSU countered with an 11 play, 73-yard drive into the red zone, but the defense stuffed the Tiger offense on 4th-and-four. Hooker proceeded to march the offense down the field, executing a meticulous 11-play, 68-yard drive capped by the second made field goal of the game from McGrath, this one from 38 yards, which increased the lead to 13-0.
The second quarter began with LSU looking to convert. Standing tall yet again was the UT defense, forcing an incompletion followed by an Aaron Beasley tackle for loss on fourth down. The explosive Volunteer offense would finally burst out on the first play of the ensuing drive. Hooker tossed a 45-yard dime to a streaking Hyatt who extended with grace and reeled in the ball in the endzone for a touchdown.
LSU got on the scoreboard for the first time with three minutes remaining in the first half. It was a long, 96-yard drive that finished with a one-yard rush from Josh Williams, but Tennessee would answer before the half ended.
Young slipped through the offensive line untouched, sacking LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels for an eight-yard loss and a turnover on downs on the ensuing possession. Needing yardage to get in field goal range, Hooker found McCoy wide open over the middle of the field for 32 yards and quickly gathered the offense to clock the ball for a last-second attempt from McGrath. The 32-yard try sailed through the middle of the goalposts to give the Vols a 23-7 advantage into halftime.
The momentum UT built carried over to the second half as the Vols put together a nine-play, 76-yard drive to kick off the third period, using 3:07 of the clock. Hooker’s playmaking was on full display as the redshirt-senior signal caller broke off a 26-yard designed quarterback draw to get the ball into the red zone. The very next play, Hooker found Hyatt in the endzone on a 14-yard crossing route for the score in single-coverage. With the extra-point good, Tennessee opened a 30-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Hooker and the offense kept the pressure on, putting together another long touchdown drive which went 92 yards on eight plays. It started with a first-play, 48-yard catch-and-run by McCoy and finished with Small’s second touchdown run of the game from five yards out. Tennessee pushed its lead further to 37-7, which would stand as the game’s score after three quarters of play.
LSU punched in a touchdown in the third quarter, but the Volunteer offense kicked it into cruise control on the ensuing drive, running 13 plays and moving the ball 81 yards behind 11 rushes from Small and Jaylen Wright. The series ate up 8:47 of clock and finished with McGrath booting through his fourth field goal of the afternoon, a 32-yard try, to give the Vols 40 points on offense.
Tennessee’s Trevon Flowers record an interception late to preserve the 40-13 victory, and the celebration was on with the thousands of Vol faithful in attendance.
Tennessee will return to Rocky Top for The Third Saturday in October when the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide come to Neyland Stadium for a top-10 matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. Tickets for the game are sold out.