The entire college football world wanted to know what Tennessee was made of after its humbling loss against Georgia last week. The Vols are just fine.
Tennessee beat Missouri 66-24 on Saturday and kept themselves in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt.
Quarterbacks – A+
Hendon Hooker benefitted from nice catches made by his receivers, but also had a pair of perfect throws dropped. Hooker ended the day completing 25-of-35 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns. Hooker also ran the ball eight times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Running Backs – A
Jabari Small ran the ball nine times for 55 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an unspecified injury. Small’s usual backup, Jaylen Wright, ran for 51 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. Dylan Sampson showed off his speed once again with 98 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Receivers/Tight Ends – B+
Jalin Hyatt, Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton made great catches in the first half. Then, unexplainably, Hyatt dropped two passes in the second quarter just when it seemed like the Vols could really put pressure on the Tigers. Still, Hyatt caught seven passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Even when Hyatt struggles a bit, he’s still really good.
McCoy caught nine passes for 111 yards. Keyton caught two passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Squirrel White caught two passes for 64 yards.
Tennessee has so many weapons that tight ends Princeton Fant and Jacob Warren have to gather up scraps. Still, they do so. Fant caught two passes for 21 yards that both resulted in touchdowns and Warren had two receptions for 34 yards.
Offensive Line – C
Let’s begin with Missouri; they’re better than most fans thought headed into the game. Still, Tennessee could have played better. There were a couple of penalties that affected drives in the first half and the Vols gave up three sacks. Tennessee ran the ball 37 times for 264 yards.
Defensive Line – C
Tennessee was very fortunate that it wasn’t playing a better running quarterback than Missiouri’s Brady Cook. The Vols lost gap containment and Cook made them pay with 106 yards rushing. The Vols allowed 172 total yards rushing and had two sacks against the Tigers.
Linebackers – C
The Vols are probably never going to be elite in second-level pass coverage. There were some instances in which Missouri players were way too open on Saturday. Still, the Vols made enough plays to keep the game out of reach in the second half.
Defensive Backs – C+
Much like Tennessee’s linebackers, UT’s defensive backs didn’t excel against Missouri. Cook completed 19 of 32 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The Vols seemed content to just keep Missouri’s receivers in front of them. Then, Tamarion McDonald got beat deep and the game got interesting. That didn’t last long.
Special Teams – C-
Tennessee had a long punt return called back because of an illegal block in the back. It just seems like it’s a matter of time until Dee Williams takes one to the house.
Coaching – B+
Tennessee was aggressive as usual. They received mixed results on some gutsy decisions involving fourth downs, but that’s just who these Vols are and are going to continue to be. It’s pretty difficult to knock the overall results. On a rainy day in which senior-day emotions were present, the Vols were ready to play early and, when the game got somewhat close, had all the right answers.
Overall – B+
Considering all the emotions and pressure that the Vols had to deal with, they came out, beat a decent team thoroughly. Championships aren’t won in matchups like the Vols faced on Saturday, but they can be lost.