Under Josh Heupel, Tennessee has been known to have one of the most productive offenses in the country. Heading into Saturday’s matchup, the Vols ranked second in the nation in points and first in yards per game.
This high-powered attack was on display once again in No. 3 Tennessee’s (7-0, 3-0 SEC) 65-24 win over UT Martin (4-3).
The scoring got started early as Hendon Hooker led Tennessee to seven consecutive scoring drives in the opening half before sitting the remainder of the game. He finished the match with 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also pitched in 28 yards on rushes.
On top of it all, Hooker’s first score notched the school record for consecutive games throwing a passing touchdown. His new mark of 19-straight games breaks Heath Shuler’s record.
“Hendon (Hooker’s) consistency and growth from the time that he’s gotten here—and you guys have seen that from the time he’s been able to be the starting quarterback—is a great lesson for everyone to continue to invest,” said Heupel. “The more you put in, the more you get out of it. He’s playing at an elite level right now. It’s exciting that he’s playing that way, but how he handles himself and the maturity that he has is important for our football team.”
Replacing Hooker was Joe Milton. Due to a lopsided score, it was rare that Milton got his number called on pass plays but he still completed four attempts for 135 yards and a touchdown. He added 23 yards on the ground, too.
Tayven Jackson and Gaston Moore also entered the game in the fourth quarter. They combined for three completions for 18 yards.
Surprisingly, tight end Princeton Fant also recorded a completion on a 66-yard strike to Jalin Hyatt on a trick play that resulted in a touchdown.
“I was definitely excited about it,” said Fant. “It was something we have been practicing and talking about this week. I was able to watch Jalin (Hyatt) catch it after getting hit. I was so happy that he caught it. I am proud.”
Fant and Hyatt contributed much more than just this highlight, though. Fant also punched it in for a touchdown twice on the ground for a total of 12 yards. Hyatt continued his success from his historic performance against Alabama and led the team with 174 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Most impressively, these stats all came in the opening half.
Saturday’s two-touchdown performance also leaves Hyatt just one touchdown reception shy of Marcus Nash’s school record of 13 in a season set in 1997.
“We thought that he would perform at a really high level—I said that and we thought that at the beginning of the season,” said Heupel. “Obviously, last week was a massive week, and the last two or three weeks have been huge for him. He continues to play really good football, and he’s been great in everything that we’re asking him to do. What I’d say about him nearing the school record in touchdowns? I don’t even know what the number is. I don’t think you ever think about those things, you just think about the player themself. He’s had good opportunities, but he’s been prepared to take advantage of those opportunities and is playing at a really high level.”
Outside of Hyatt, the wide receiver that stood out the most in the offense was freshman Squirrel White. The speedster burnt the Skyhawks’ secondary multiple times resulting in five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Other key contributors in the passing game were Ramel Keyton, Walker Merrill, Bru McCoy, Jimmy Holiday and Fant. Keyton totaled 77 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Merrill, McCoy, Holiday and Fant combined for 104 yards.
Outside of the air attack, the Vols dominated the ground game. Dylan Sampson received the majority of the load with 62 yards on 13 carries. Jabari Small recorded 33 yards on 11 carries. Both players scored a touchdown.
As a team, Tennessee finished with 696 total yards of offense. The 65 points scored are the most the Vols have recorded in a single game since 2000.
Next week, the Vols will face No. 19 Kentucky in an attempt to stay undefeated. The game will air on ESPN and kickoff at 7 p.m. EST.
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at email@example.com