Finally, after four seasons of truly pitiful offense, Tennessee exploded for 62 points on their way to beating Missouri on the road. It was a glimpse of what you thought Tennessee might look like under Josh Heupel — perhaps a sign of things to come if all goes well. It was a shot of fresh air, coming exactly seven days after another frustrating day in The Swamp.
Tennessee ran absolutely wild, taking 59 carries for 458 yards. Tiyon Evans took one of those 92 yards for a score, Hendon Hooker picked up chunks all day, along with Len’Neth Whitehead.
Hooker was efficient in the passing game, completing 15-19 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns. There wasn’t a ton asked of Hooker on this day, thanks to Missouri’s historically bad run defense.
I’ve been saying quietly that Tennessee would put a game together — a full game. We’ve seen the flashes, we’ve seen the missed opportunities. On Saturday, everything hit on all cylinders. Sure, it was all sparked by the run game and a pathetic run defense, but let’s not minimize that effort either.
This was a complete thrashing. The coaching staff identified a weakness, told the other side they weren’t going to stop them, and ran it down their throat all day.
In total, Tennessee put up 683 yards of offense. They held Missouri to 396 yard and 24 points, and only committed two penalties on the day.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Josh Heupel said after the game. “We’re just scratching the surface of what we are capable of. There is a whole lot more for us in our growth. Enjoy this one, because they’re hard to come by. But no different than previous weeks — let’s come back on Monday and let’s get better. If our kids continue to buy into that process and that mentality, we’re going to continue to grow throughout the season.”
Nobody expected Tennessee to go beat Florida, Georgia or Alabama in year one. However, these games against Pittsburgh, Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt is where some early judgments will be created. Through two of these swing games, Tennessee is 1-1, and quite frankly could very easily be 2-0.
Now you look for some consistency. You look to do this against a defense that doesn’t rank dead last in run defense in the FBS. You look to take care of business against an opponent that you should beat next week.
Can they replicate what they did against Missouri? Probably not. But could this be a stepping stone type moment for the program? Absolutely.
We’ve all bought in to coaches that have come through Knoxville before. Lane against Georgia, Butch against South Carolina, Pruitt against Auburn — this could be the beginning of that moment for Heupel. Will he have a different outcome? Let’s hope so — Lord knows we deserve it.