A Tennessee Volunteers (1-1) win was essentially expected this weekend considering the opponent in the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (0-2). But nothing is ever guaranteed in college football until the final whistle.
There were no surprises on Saturday, however, as the Vols cruised to a 56-0 victory over the Golden Eagles. Hendon Hooker led the way with four total touchdowns and the Tennessee defense smothered the Tech offense en route to its first shutout of the year and the first shoutout since 2019.
The Vols received the ball to start the game and Hendon Hooker ran onto the field as Tennessee’s starting quarterback. The first drive ended in disappointment as JaVonta Payton dropped a deep pass and then Hooker overthrew Payton on the next play.
Tennessee Tech went three-and-out on their first drive of the game thanks to an Aaron Beasley/Tyler Baron sack on 3rd and 10. Hayden Olsen punted the ball away and Velus Jones Jr. returned it all the way to the Tech 33, setting up the Vols with great field position.
Tennessee immediately took advantage of the field position. Hooker went right back to Payton on the first play of the drive and hit him for a 29-yard touchdown pass. It was an excellent throw and even better catch. Hooker’s ball placement was outstanding and Payton showed excellent tracking, hands, and body control as he came down with the catch to give the Vols six points. Chase McGrath nailed the PAT and the Vols led, 7-0, with 10:44 to go in the first quarter.
Perfect throw from Hendon Hooker, one hell of a catch by Javonta Payton for 6 pic.twitter.com/aOWE0XDn3W— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 18, 2021
Tech went three-and-out again. Tennessee soon faced a 4th and 2 from the Tech 47 and decided to go for it. A low snap threw the timing off and Hooker missed Princeton Fant in the right flat. Tech took over close to the midfield with a chance to tie the game.
The Golden Eagles tried some trickery on 1st and 10 by deploying a halfback pass, but failed during the attempt and suffered a seven-yard loss instead of producing a big play. That play was enough to derail the drive, but things became even worse as Jaylen McCullough picked off Willie Miller on 3rd and 22. McCullough was able to take the ball down to the Tech 37 and the Vols started another drive with great field position.
Tennessee faced a 2nd and 19 thanks to a holding call, but a Tech defender was flagged for participating without a helmet, which gave the Vols 15 yards and an automatic first down. Hooker showed off his legs a couple of plays later with a tough 23-yard run that initially looked like a touchdown, but he was ruled down at the 1-foot line.
Jaylen Wright punched it in on the next play, the PAT went through, and the Vols now led, 14-0, with 4:47 to go in the first quarter.
Tech finally got a first down on its fourth drive of the game and started to move the ball, but the drive fell short just shy of midfield. Olsen executed his punt perfectly and was able to pin the Vols at their own 4.
The Golden Eagles’ advantage didn’t last long, though. Wright broke off a 15-yard run on second down to give the offense breathing room and the Vols offense was on the move. A DPI call on Tech moved the ball to midfield, where Tennessee soon faced a 4th and 3. The Vols were successful this time around as Hooker found Jones Jr. for the first down.
But it didn’t stop there. Jones Jr. broke free of the Jyron Gilmore’s grasp and raced down the sideline and broke one more tackle as he dove into the end zone. It was the definition of an extra-effort play from Jones Jr. and is easily one of the highlights of the Vols’ young season. The touchdown capped off a nine-play, 96-yard scoring drive and the Vols now led, 21-0, with 12:13 left in the first half.
Disaster struck for the Vols offense after another Tech three-and-out. It looked like Hooker was about to come away with a big gain on the ground after breaking free from about three Tech defenders, but fumbled the ball after he was drilled by Jayvian Allen. Cameron Hudson scooped the ball up and took it down to the UT30. The Vols avoided complete disaster, however, as Tech missed its field goal attempt to remain scoreless.
A botched exchange nearly cost the Vols again, but Hooker was able to fall on the ball. However, it did create a 3rd and 14 from which the Vols could not recover. The Vols had to punt the ball away after the quick possession, but Kolby Morris’ punt sailed 55 yards and the Vols punt return team was able to tackle Gilmore for a one-yard loss at the Tech 6.
Miller took a shot on Tech’s next drive during a 1st and 10 run and had to leave the game. Davis Shanley replaced him but couldn’t get anything going and Tech had to punt.
Tennessee used the three of the final four minutes of the first half to drive 42 yards for its fourth touchdown of the first half. The key play was a 10-yard completion from Hooker to Payton on fourth down. Hooker found tight end Jacob Warren a few plays later to make it a 28-0 game with just :49 seconds left in the first half. The touchdown was rather costly, however, as left guard Kingston Harris had to be helped off the field with what looked to be a pretty serious injury.
The Golden Eagles ran clock to end the first half. They’d receive the ball to start the second half, but would have to finish the game without their starting quarterback in Miller.
Shanley was able to make a couple of nice plays, but the Golden Eagles’ first drive of the second half eventually fell short and they had to punt. But Tech ended up keeping the ball thanks to a roughing the kicker call on Jimmy Holiday. Instead of Volunteer ball, it was 1st and 10 at the Tennessee 42 for the Tech offense.
Shanley hit Quinton Cross for 12 yards to convert a tough 3rd and 10 and move the ball inside the Tennessee 30, but Alontae Taylor picked off the next pass to end any threat of a Tech score. The senior cornerback returned the interception to the Tech 49 to set up the Vols offense with great field position yet again.
The Vols soon faced a 3rd and 1, but Hooker found Walker Merril for the first down that set the offense up inside the Tech 1. Hooker punched it in two plays later and the subsequent PAT went through to make it a 35-0 game with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
Tennessee’s defense continued to pour it on. Solon Page III picked off Shanley and returned it for a touchdown on the first play of Tech’s next drive. The PAT went through the uprights and the Vols now led, 42-0, with 8:37 left in the third.
Drew Martin started Tech’s next drive at quarterback. The position change didn’t do anything, though. Tech went three-and-out and had to punt the ball after gaining zero yards.
Tennessee didn’t make a quarterback change. Hooker stayed in at quarterback and quickly moved the offense inside red zone. A DPI on Tech set the Vols up at the Golden Eagles’ 2 and Tiyon Evans finished off the drive with a one-yard plunge to put the. Vols up, 49-0, with 3:38 to go in the third quarter.
Harrison Bailey came into replace Hooker with a little over 1:00 left in the third quarter. He unloaded a really nice deep shot to Ramel Keyton, but Keyton couldn’t come down with the pass and the offense eventually went three-and-out.
Tamarion McDonald intercepted Martin’s first down pass and the Vols offense marched down the field for a 12-play, 52-yard touchdown drive that ended with Bailey punching it in from two yards out. J.T. Carver’s PAT pushed the Vols’ lead to 56-0 with 7:35 left in the game.
Tech attempted to put points on board for the duration of the game, but never could get the job done and would go on to lose, 56-0.
The Vols are now (2-1) and will travel to Gainesville, Florida on Saturday, September 25 to take on the Gators. Kickoff is set for 7PM EST.
You can check out the final score and stats here.