How will you remember 2022? Ten victories, in the meantime leaders or a devastating defeat? Hendon Hooker’s brilliance, losing streak ended or damage related to South Carolina’s 63 points?
Hooker’s five touchdown passes to Jalin Hyatt vs. Alabama or Hooker’s knee injury with no gamecock at fault?
How about 56-0 over Vanderbilt, poor Vanderbilt?
Tennessee defeated Florida, 38-33 to end the Gators’ demoralizing monopoly. Almost the entire spirited crowd (101,915) celebrated. Josh Heupel was very satisfied.
“Man, what a great night on Rocky Top. The energy in the stadium was electric. It was amazing. It even exceeded my expectations. The Vol Walk was unlike anything I’ve seen as a player or coach. The fans were a big part of the win.”
Coach, Coach, it was a great game, but it certainly wasn’t a KO.
The short version of what happened was a sensational quarterback shootout with unusual stats. There weren’t many defensive stops.
Hooker was reasonably great — 22 of 28 for 349 yards and two touchdowns plus 13 runs for 112 more yards and another score. Florida’s Anthony Richardson set a career-high 453 yards pass. He threw for two TDs and got two on the floor.
Tennessee’s pass defense was suspect.
How about brunch at Baton Rouge? Crisp Vols, favorite of three, won by 27. Tennessee was 20 ahead before the awkward Tigers realized the game had started. Usually passionate LSU Fans handed over “Death Valley” to the audience’s celebration. Love Louisiana kickoffs at 11 a.m. CST.
Tennessee’s defense earned a round of applause. Vols has sacked Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels five times. LSU’s running attack was put down for 55 yards on 28 attempts. Defender Dee Williams, idle for the first four games, turned his first touch into a 58-yard punt return.
Brian Kelly, former Notre Dame coach with the $95 million contract, helped the Vols. His fourth down calls failed.
“We need to train better,” he said.
One LSU fan was more emphatic: “Brian Kelly is looking more and more like an extremely expensive mistake.”
Alabama The dominance ended on October 15. One Tide fan saw the meaning: “When you beat Alabama, you charge the field, tear down goalposts and jump up the polls. You deserve it.”
In Westwords it was a vol win for eternity. Readers were invited to choose their own adjective – amazing, sensational or historic.
Tennessee scored a winning 40-yard field goal from Chase McGrath after time was up. It was an ugly knuckleball that limped over the bar, but Alabama, 52-49, stunned and accomplished so much.
It ended the Tide’s 15-year monopoly. It sparked a spectacular celebration. It elevated Tennessee’s record to 6-0. Dozens of recruits must have wondered if college football was getting any better — anytime, anywhere.
“What an environment!” shouted Heupel. The full house was loud and wild. The student division limited communications on the south end and may have been a factor in Alabama’s 17 violations that cost 130 yards.
This was a perpetually offensive show — 569 yards for Alabama, just two fewer for Tennessee.
Hook had a Heisman look — 21 of 30 passes, 385 yards, five TDs for Hyatt.
Alabama missed what could have been the deciding field goal with 15 seconds left. Tennessee, at the wrong end of the field, could have gone into overtime. It was about winning.
Hooker threw for Ramel Keyton for 18. Bru McCoy made a big boy catch for 27. McGrath hit the three. What happened next felt like an earthquake.
Fans, mostly students, flocked to Shields-Watkins Field. dr Danny White must decide if the fun was worth the $100,000 conference fine.
Indeed, Hyatt had a spectacular game. Alabama never figured out what to do with the fast receiver. Six catches for 207 yards. His five touchdowns set the Southeastern Conference record. Two tide safetys now know they can’t run that fast. For some reason, the Tide trainers never changed the concept of defense.
Think about it:
Kentucky 6 0 0 0 – 6
Tennessee 7 20 10 7 – 44
Here are the headlines: Vols clobber Wildcats; defense dominated by Tennessee; Hyatt sets touchdown record; Kentucky loses the quarterback comparison.
British manager Mark Stoops has told the truth. He said the better team won. He told his players that 44-6 was no fluke.
“Tennessee has beaten us in practically every area, overtaken us, outplayed us.”
Georgia inflicted Tennessee’s first defeat. It wasn’t bad, but it hurt. Simply jumping back would not be enough. Now I’m asking you, shot 66 against Missouri My heup intentionally ramped up the score?
Tennessee’s reserve offense put together a late scoring drive. A 58-yard pass from Joe Milton to freshman receiver Squirrel White put the ball on the Tigers’ 1. The question at stake was whether the Vols should have taken a knee in a situation like this, or whether it was okay to play football until the end of the game.
The Vols played. Dylan Sampson met. Thirty-six seconds remained. TV analyst Rick Neuheisel said the extra touchdown could haunt Heupel.
Kind, loving, charitable fans found the Vols very rude.
“Nine touchdowns and a field goal, a school record 724 yards on total offense and quite a few style points,” Westwords said at the time.
In celebration of Seniors Day, Hooker delivered in high style — 25-of-34 for 355 yards and three TDs. He ran for 54 yards and another score. He finished No. 5 on the Tennessee career list with 55 TD passes in a season and three quarters. We knew he might not catch Peyton Manning #1. He had 89.
Hooker took on Manning in colorful post-game showmanship. He climbed a small ladder and played conductor for the band Pride of the Southland. Peyton did that on his senior day.
South Carolina 63, Tennessee 35 was among the worst UT defensive performances of all time. Some of us thought there was no way the Gamecocks could score that many points if all the vols tried.
The Jeremy Banks controversy, suspension, poor defense, devastating loss, unforgettable? Add up everything that has been lost. Will you ever forget how Hook’s knee burst?
Vanderbilt was a version of helpless. Tennessee set a record for long runs. Milton handled the ball, played hit and miss, made some big throws. Clever coaches devised a running game plan for inclement weather.
Do you think 2022 will be a good or great season or will it always be what it could have been?
Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His adress is [email protected].