Salem Radio Network News Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Sports

Hooker leads Tennessee’s rout of South Alabama 60-14

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Hendon Hooker threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another to lead Tennessee to a 60-14 victory over South Alabama on Saturday night.

The nonconference win gives the Volunteers (6-5) bowl eligibility in coach Josh Heupel’s first season. The Jaguars (5-6) have one more try to reach that level under first-year coach Kane Wommack.

Hooker connected on 17 of 20 passes, with touchdowns going to Cedric Tillman (27 yards) and Princeton Fant (24). Jabari Small rushed for 73 yards and a pair of TDs. Jalen Wright and Len’Neth Whitehead also scored one on the ground.

“(We were) hitting on every angle,” Hooker said. “We’re trying to tire you out tonight.”

“(Hooker) keeps being aggressive,” Heupel said. “He’s a competitor.”

Besides an offense that collected 561 yards, the Vols defense stifled the Jaguars with 1 of 16 in third-down conversions and had 13 tackles for loss.

“We did a good job of maxing things out (on defense),” Heupel said. “We had pressure on their quarterback.”

“I don’t think we played particularly well tonight,” said Wommack. “Defensively, when we get behind on someone, we play too hesitant. You got to cut it loose against guys like this. They’re athletic, they’re faster than us, they go very very fast and challenge you, they make tackles in space, and right now we don’t have enough guys that can make tackles in space.”

Tennessee’s offense generated 275 yards and 16 first downs in the first half, but it was Velus Jones’ 96-yard kickoff return with just over a minute before intermission that highlighted the 35-7 half.

The Vols pushed the lead to 28-0 late in the second quarter before South Alabama showed signs of life. Keith Gallmon, a “short” man in punt formation, ran 26 yards on a fake to the Tennessee 33. Desmond Trotter followed that with a 27-yard pass to Jalen Wayne and then a 3-yard TD pass to Lincoln Sefcik.

Tennessee’s dominance in the first quarter continued. Touchdown runs by Small and Wright gave the Vols a 14-0 lead while extending their season advantage to 162-44 in the first 15 minutes.

THE TAKEAWAY

South Alabama: Injuries piled up on the Jaguars and became too much for them to overcome – especially against an SEC opponent.

Tennessee: All season, Heupel has stressed the importance of maintaining a high competitive level, no matter the opponent. Tennessee got closer to reaching that with its win over the Jaguars.

ODDS & ENDS

Hooker’s second-quarter touchdown pass to Cedric Tillmon was his 10th-straight game with a TD pass … This game had two safeties. Desmond Trotter was tackled in the end zone, the other when the ball was snapped out of the end zone on a punt … It was Tennessee’s latest nonconference game played since Dec. 4, 1971, when the Vols beat No. 5 Penn State in Knoxville.

UP NEXT

South Alabama: The Jaguars have a Friday afternoon battle at home with Coastal Carolina, a game they must win to be bowl eligible.

Tennessee: Heupel will get his introduction to the in-state rivalry with Vanderbilt on Saturday.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

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