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Jimmy Hyams: Two Culprits Stopped Tennessee Offense

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As Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker surveyed the field from the pocket, he found no one open.

The senior tried to juke a pass rusher, to no avail.

Hooker was sacked, stopping a drive in the first quarter against a beleaguered Missouri defense.

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In the second quarter, Tennessee faced fourth-and-4 against Missouri, leading 28-14.

Another touchdown would likely kill any Missouri hopes of a comeback.

Instead, Hooker was sacked again just before halftime.

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On the first drive of the third quarter, Hooker was sacked for a third time, stopping a drive.

All that didn’t matter, as Tennessee mauled Missouri 66-24 at Neyland Stadium.

But it did underscore this: If you want to stop Tennessee’s unstoppable offense, record a sack.

There was another way to contain UT’s attack: a Vol penalty.

Sacks and penalties accounted for 22% of Tennessee’s touchdown-stopping drives.

My criteria: I used nine Power Five opponents only and the first-team offense only.

Notice, I said touchdown-stopping drives. If a penalty or sack forced a field-goal attempt, that counted against the offense.

Against Pitt, UT managed four touchdowns on 14 possessions. Tennessee had two drives stopped by penalty and three by sacks.

Against Florida, Tennessee got five touchdowns on nine possessions. One was stopped via a sack.

Against LSU, the Vols scored touchdowns on four of 11 possessions. Two were stopped by penalty.

Against Alabama, UT scored a touchdown on seven of 14 possessions. Two sacks stopped drives.

Against Kentucky, UT scored a touchdown on six of 11 possessions. Two were stopped by a sack and one by penalty.

Against Georgia, UT scored one touchdown on 10 possessions. Three sacks and two penalties stopped five drives.

Against Missouri, UT scored a TD on nine of 13 possessions. Three possessions were stopped by sacks.

Against South Carolina, UT scored five touchdowns on 11 possessions. One was stopped by a sack, one by penalty.

Against Vanderbilt, UT had 11 possessions and scored seven touchdowns. No drive was stopped via penalty or sack.

Thus, UT’s first-team offense against nine Power Five opponents scored a touchdown on 48 of 104 possessions.

A penalty or sack stopped 23 of those drives.

Tennessee also failed on 10 fourth-down attempts to negate scoring opportunities.

Bottom line: Tennessee scored a touchdown on 46% of its possessions against Power Five teams and a penalty or sack stopped drives 22% of the time.

If Tennessee had cleaned up those sacks and penalties, the Vols would have averaged more than 50 points per game.

Instead, UT averaged a mere 47.3 points, which led the nation.

If Tennessee can avoid sacks and penalties next year, the Vols might have (enter sarcasm) a decent offense.

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