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Jimmy Hyams: Missouri seemingly learned nothing from Tennessee’s loss to Georgia

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If Georgia’s defense showed the blueprint on how to stop Tennessee’s offense, Missouri didn’t pay attention.

Tennessee scored early and often and embarrassed the SEC’s No. 4 defense with a resounding 66-24 victory Saturday on Senior Day at Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee racked up a school-record 724 total yards as quarterback Hendon Hooker had a field day. The senior Heisman Trophy candidate completed 25 of 35 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 50 yards and another score to propel the Vols’ vaunted attack.

Missouri, which was allowing only 23 points per game and held top-ranked Georgia to 26, was no match for Josh Heupel’s high-powered scheme.

Tennessee suffered no ill affect from last week’s loss to Georgia, which knocked the Vols out of the top spot in the College Football playoff.

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A Tennessee offense that struggled to move the ball against Georgia’s dominating defense, shredded Missouri for the second year in a row.

Last year, the Vols won 62-24 and rushed for 458 yards.

This year, the Vols exceeded that points total with the help of 460 passing yards.

Dave Hooker and Caleb Calhoun look back on Tennessee’s thumping of Missouri

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, who just got an extension and raise a week ago, vowed the Tigers would have a different approach against the Vols his time around.

Didn’t matter.  A new defensive coordinator, a new scheme, new personnel and newfound confidence didn’t produce a new result.

It didn’t appear as though the win would come so easily when Missouri scored with 8:55 left in the third quarter to cut UT’s lead to 28-24.

But the Vols scored two players later on a 68-yard pass from Hooker to Jalin Hyatt and the rout was on.

The offensive explosive seemed to ignite the defense as well as the Vols outscored the Tigers 38-0 over the final 24 minutes.

Hyatt’s 15 touchdown reception extended his single-season school record and ranks sixth all-time in the SEC.

The play design was a beauty.

“That’s been in my back pocket for a while,’’ Heupel said.

Hyatt described the play.

“I was hiding behind the left guard,’’ said Hyatt, who, despite two drops, caught seven passes for 146 yards. “We were just trying to get them confused with the zone they went in. I saw the corner follow Bru (McCoy) so it was just an easy pitch and catch for us.’’

Hooker was confident the play would work.

“It’s successful every time we run it in practice,’’ Hooker said.  “I heard somebody on the sideline say, `Too easy.’’’

It was so easy and it gave the Vols some breathing room at 35-24.

Then the avalanche came as Missouri struggled to convert on third down and the Vols took advantage, scoring quickly on the next five possessions on a Princeton Fant 2-yard reception, a Jaylen Wright 1-yard, a field goal, a 46-yard catch by Ramel Keyton and a Dylan Sampson 2-yard score.

Sampson, whose recent playing time has been limited due to his pass protection woes, ripped off runs of 42 sand 15 yards to set up a score.

“Those two runs I feel like generated momentum,’’ said Sampson, who gained a team-high 98 yards on eight carries.

The Vols certainly showed no ill affects from suffering their first loss of the season at Georgia last Saturday.  

They also had to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee, which placed the Vols No. 5 in this week’s poll.

Tennessee (9-1) has now gone undefeated at home for the first time since 2007.

It has won five SEC games for just the second time in the past 14 years.

It hasn’t won six conference games since 2007.

And it is relevant in the CFP conversation for the first time ever.

Not bad for a team that went 3-7 in 2020, lost over 40 players for a variety of reasons over a 12-month period and still hasn’t resolved an NCAA investigation which found 18 serious recruiting violations.

Hyatt was pleased with the way UT responded to the loss at Georgia.

“Our focus is on our goal,’’ he said, “and that’s to win the national championship.’’

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