They started their first drive on their own nine-yard line. Tennessee football needed a spark against a very good Missouri Tigers defense to prove they had overcome last week’s 27-13 loss at the Georgia Bulldogs.
Josh Heupel and Alex Golesh called a designed play for Jacob Warren. Hendon Hooker threw a short pass to Warren, who took it 14 yards for a first down.
However, rather than accept the yards and go out of bounds, Warren fought for eight more yards. Warren said he was committed to jumping over anybody who came towards him with that catch.
“We’re trying to get as many yards as physically possible, and so, obviously I feel those defenders now collapsing, and I feel the sidelines, and so the sideline isn’t an option,” he said. “It’s not an option to go out of bounds, so the only option is to put my foot on the ground and get back vertical and go get what I can get, and yeah, obviously it just seems like a routine play on me but was appreciated by a lot of people here.”
That play sparked a 91-yard drive to give the Vols a 7-0 lead early. It came right after a crucial three-and-out by the defense to open the game.
For a noon kickoff after a tough loss, this was exactly what the Vols needed. Warren acknowledged it was partially a statement play given all the questions that arose after last week.
“It was saying like, yeah, we’re still fighting,” he said. “We’re still here, and, you know, we’re coming after you the whole game.”
A huge part of blocking out the issue of the Georgia loss was doing so in practice. Tennessee football had to return to the field Monday and make sure they were focused on what was to come.
Warren noted that the Vols were better equipped to handle one loss because of what they have dealt with the previous few years. Going 3-7 in 2020 was brought up given that perspective.
“How can you be mad about a loss to now the No. 1 team in the nation by two scores and we played the worst game that we’ve played all year?” he said. “If you can’t just learn from that and just grow and move on from that, then you’re going have a hard time moving on from some really tough times, so the fact that we’ve been through those tough times, I think, helps us in these situations.”
With the improved play, though, has come improved expectations, and Warren has acknowledged as such. That’s obvious given the disappointment from that loss to Georgia.
A huge example of that was Jalin Hyatt. Despite leading the team in receiving and scoring a touchdown, he reportedly lamented his drops more than anything else, as he had two on one drive.
“You raise the bar, and you raise the standard, and you understand what the standard is and for yourself,” he said. “There’s a team standard, but there’s also a standard that each individual person has for themselves on how they want to play.”