Big play offense leads Tennessee to victory over No. 18 Kentucky


Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WATE) — The Tennessee offense amassed 461 yards, possessing the ball for just 13:52 as the Volunteers hold off Kentucky 45-42, the first ranked win of the season for the Vols.

The Tennessee offense started quickly, Hendon Hooker found JaVonta Payton in the flat and the Mississippi State transfer did the rest, a 75 yard touchdown connection on the first play from scrimmage to give the Volunteers a 7-0 lead.

Kentucky answered with a 14 play 75 yard drive, taking up 8:36, capped by a Kavosiey Smoke nine yard touchdown run to tie the game ay seven.

The Vols big play offense struck again on their second possession of the game. Hendon Hooker connected with Velus Jones Jr. on a 72 yard touchdown. Tennessee led 14-7 after the first quarter despite only having the ball for :37 in the quarter.

The Wildcats scored the next 14 points on a Will Levis touchdown run and pass to give them their first lead of the game at 21-14 with 3:57 to play in the first half.

Tennessee answered with a Hooker 18 yard touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Warren to tie the game at 21 with 2:43 to play in the half.

The Vols would get the ball back and go 35 yards in 14 seconds to set up a Chase McGrath 43 yard field goal as time expired to give Tennessee a 24-21 lead at the break.

Tennessee struggled to run the ball in the first half amassing just 18 yards on the ground before the break. Early in the 2nd half that changed with a 37 yard touchdown run by Jabari Small to give the Volunteers a 31-28 lead in the 3rd quarter.

Moments later the Tennessee defense cashes in when Alontae Taylor intercepted a Levis pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to extend the Vols lead to 38-28.

After Kentucky scored to pull the game within three, Hooker connected with Cedric Tillman for a six yard touchdown to give Tennessee a 45-35 lead with 11:40 to play in the game.

Hendon Hooker finished the game 15-20 for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns.

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