Hooker leads the Tennessee Rout from Southern Alabama 60-14

South Alabama tight end Lincoln Sefcik (88) collides in the end zone for a touchdown in front of Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor (2) in the first half of a NCAA college football on Saturday, November 20, 2021 in Knoxville, Tenn (AP Photo / Wade Payne)

South Alabama tight end Lincoln Sefcik (88) collides in the end zone for a touchdown in front of Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor (2) in the first half of a NCAA college football on Saturday, November 20, 2021 in Knoxville, Tenn (AP Photo / Wade Payne)

PA

All season, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel has focused on maintaining a high level of competition, regardless of the opponent.

On Saturday night, with a 60-14 win over South Alabama, the Heupel players proved they got the message.

“They answered my question,” Heupel said. “Who are we going to be? We were on his mission. We took care of business.

Hendon Hooker threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another to lead Tennessee.

The out-of-conference victory gives the Volunteers (6-5) bowl eligibility for Heupel’s first season. The Jaguars (5-6) still have a try to reach that level under the guidance of first-year coach Kane Wommack.

“(Bowl eligibility) is definitely important,” Heupel said. “Nobody focused on this part. We just wanted to keep growing and being competitive. Now we have the opportunity to grow and compete in December.

Hooker connected on 17 of 20 passes, with touchdowns for Cedric Tillman (27 yards) and Princeton Fant (24). Jabari Small rushed for 73 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jalen Wright and Len’Neth Whitehead also scored a floor.

“(We) were hitting from all angles,” Hooker said. “We’re trying to tire you out tonight. “

“(Hooker) continues to be aggressive,” Heupel said. “He’s a competitor.”

In addition to an offense that tallied 561 yards, the Vols’ defense stifled the Jaguars with 1 of 16 conversions on third down and made 13 tackles for a loss.

“We did a good job of maximizing things (in defense),” Heupel said. “We had pressure on their quarterback. “

“I don’t think we played particularly well tonight,” said Wommack. “Defensively, when we fall behind someone, we play too hesitantly. You have to let go against guys like that. They are athletic, they are faster than us, they go very, very fast and challenge you, they do tackles in space, and right now we don’t have enough guys who can tackle in space.

Take it away

Southern Alabama: Injuries have built up on the Jaguars and have become too difficult to overcome, especially against an SEC opponent.

Tennessee: All season, Heupel has emphasized the importance of maintaining a high level of competition, regardless of the opponent. Tennessee moved closer to that goal with their victory over the Jaguars.

CHANCES AND ENDS

Hooker’s second quarter touchdown pass to Cedric Tillmon was his 10th straight game with a touchdown pass… This game had two safeties. Desmond Trotter was tackled in the end zone, the other when the ball was knocked out of the end zone on a punt … It was Tennessee’s last non-conference game played since December 4, 1971 , when the Vols defeated No. 5 Penn State in Knoxville.

FOLLOWING

Southern Alabama: The Jaguars have a Friday afternoon home battle against Coastal Carolina, a game they must win to be bowl eligible.

Tennessee: Heupel will have his introduction to the in-state rivalry with Vanderbilt on Saturday.

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