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

Nov 20, 2021, 6:17 AM | Updated: 9:42 pm
Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the first...

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against South Alabama Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — All season, Tennessee coach Josh Heupel has stressed maintaining a high competitive level, no matter the opponent.

Saturday night, thanks to a 60-14 win over South Alabama, Heupel’s players proved they got the message.

“They answered my question,” Heupel said. “Who are we going to be? We were assignment sound. We took care of business.”

Hendon Hooker threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another to lead Tennessee.

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

“(Bowl eligibility) is important for sure,” Heupel said. “Nobody focused on that part of it. We just wanted to continue to grow and compete. Now we have an opportunity to grow and compete in December.”

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.”

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

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Texas Rangers starter Jon Gray throws during the first inning of the team's baseball game against t...
Associated Press

Mariners outlast Rangers in 11, close in on playoff berth

SEATTLE (AP) — Mitch Haniger and Jarred Kelenic both homered twice, J.P. Crawford singled home the winning run in the 11th inning and the Seattle Mariners closed in on their first playoff berth in 21 years by beating the Texas Rangers 10-9 Thursday night. The Mariners moved a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay for the […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Dodgers' Miguel Vargas watches his two-run single during the sixth inning of the team's...
Associated Press

Vargas, Dodgers beat Padres 5-2 for 108th win

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Miguel Vargas is making a push to be included on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ postseason roster — if manager Dave Roberts can find a spot for him. The rookie outfielder hit a tiebreaking, two-run single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and the NL West champion Dodgers beat San […]
1 day ago
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is sacked by Cincinnati Bengals' Josh Tupou (68) duri...
Associated Press

Explainer: Tua Tagovailoa, fencing response and NFL protocol

Tua Tagovailoa stumbled to the ground, his legs wobbly and unable to walk to the huddle after banging his head Sunday. And then Thursday night, he was carried off the field by stretcher after another hit caused his head to violently slam against the turf and his hands to freeze up. The Dolphins said the […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani looks toward the plate after giving up a hit to O...
Associated Press

Ohtani takes no-hitter into 8th, Angels beat Athletics 4-2

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani has provided Angels fans with plenty of highlights this season. The two-way phenom almost topped them all Thursday night. The reigning AL MVP pitched no-hit ball into the eighth inning and extended his hitting streak to 14 games as Los Angeles pushed its winning streak to four with a […]
1 day ago
San Francisco Giants' Ford Proctor, second from left, celebrates with Austin Wynns after hitting a ...
Associated Press

Proctor hits grand slam, Rodón Ks 10 as Giants sweep Rockies

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ford Proctor hit a grand slam for his first career home run, Carlos Rodón struck out 10 in six scoreless innings and the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 6-4 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep. “It’s hard to describe,” Proctor said of his grand slam. “Probably my […]
1 day ago
FILE - New York Mets' Jacob deGrom walks onto the field with catcher Francisco Álvarez to pitch fo...
Associated Press

AP source: Mets calling up top prospect Álvarez vs Braves

NEW YORK (AP) — The first-place New York Mets are calling up top prospect Francisco Álvarez for their pivotal weekend series against the Atlanta Braves, according to a person familiar with the decision. The person confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday night because the Mets had not yet announced […]
1 day ago
Hooker leads Tennessee’s rout of South Alabama 60-14