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Tennessee football: Reactions from Vols’ 66-24 victory over Missouri

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Hendon Hooker, Tennessee football passing game return to form.

It was a bounce back game for the Tennessee football signal caller. Hendon Hooker completed 25 of 36 passes (69.4 percent) for 355 yards (9.9 yards per attempt), three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran it seven times for 54 yards and a score. How Hooker spread the ball around was also huge.

There were two 100-yard receivers. Jalin Hyatt had seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. Bru McCoy had nine catches for 111 yards. Princeton Fant had two touchdown receptions, including an incredible grab in coverage, his first two of the year after scoring in every other way.

Vols ran the ball well.

You have to give them credit for how they played in the trenches. The Vols’ offensive line beat an elite Missouri defensive line that has been dominating teams all year. That resulted in 36 carries for 273 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

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Dylan Sampson had eight carries for 98 yards and a late touchdown. Jabari Small, who got banged up, had nine carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. Jaylen Wright had 11 carries for 51 yards and two touchdowns, and he scored on two short-yardage runs, proving he can play physical now.

Dave Hooker and Caleb Calhoun discuss Tennessee’s 66-24 win over Missouri

Run defense was great…against the running backs.

You have to give credit to the Tennessee football linebackers for how they often times closed the gap on running plays. Cody Schrader had 10 carries for 25 yards, and the Vols had multiple defensive stands on short-yardage runs throughout the game.

However, when it came to quarterback Brady Cook, it was a different story. The Vols had trouble with him all day, as he kept Mizzou in the game. He finished with 16 carries for 105 yards, and that’s not the only way he kept them in the game.

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Secondary still has its issues.

Although he only went 18-of-31 for 214 yards and two touchdowns, Brady Cook took advantage of longstanding issues in the Vols’ secondary. He had a touchdown pass on 4th and 1 because two UT defensive backs took a horrible angle.

Then Tamarion McDonald got beat on another touchdown pass which cut the lead for Tennessee football to 28-24 in the second half. They regrouped after that, largely by adjusting to Cook’s running, but it was a problem for a while.

Pass rush stepped up late.

Once Tennessee football was able to build its huge lead, the pass rush stepped up. This was a problem when they faced Georgia last week, as they didn’t really get any pressure on Stetson Bennett without blitzing.

Well, despite the way Cook ran on them, the Vols were still able to frustrate him and start to pressure him late. Tyler Baron and James Pearce each came away with a sack, and they had eight hurries on top of those.

Kicking game was an underrated advantage.

It mostly happened with the game in hand, but place kicking and punting has struggled with consistency on the year. Paxton Brooks and Chase McGrath seem to have come on the past two weeks, though, and that’s an underrated part of this game.

Brooks had two punts for an average of 45.5 yards per punt. Both of his punts pinned Mizzou inside the 20-yard line. McGrath, after missing extra points in two of three games, hit a 48-yarder last week and then a 46-yarder in this one. It didn’t seem to matter, but that could be huge down the road.

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