Hendon Hooker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Tennessee routed Missouri 62-24, scoring touchdowns on its first six possessions Saturday.
Hooker completed 15 of 19 passes for 225 yards and rushed 14 times for 74 yards. He wasn’t the only Volunteer who padded his stats against a beleaguered defense. Tiyon Evans rushed 15 times for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Tennessee (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) piled up 677 total yards and never punted.
The Volunteers built a 28-3 first-quarter lead without ever needing to run a third-down play. Among the many highlights was Evans’ 92-yard touchdown run in which he ran through a massive hole on the right side and wasn’t touched by a Missouri defender.
The Tigers (2-3, 0-2 SEC) entered the game ranked 129th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing defense, allowing an average of 269 rushing yards per game. Tennessee had 275 rushing yards in the first half alone as it built a 45-10 lead and finished with 452 yards on the ground.
The Tennessee defense contained Missouri’s big-play threat, Tyler Badie, holding the running back to 41 yards on 21 carries, and intercepted quarterback Connor Bazelak twice. The best moment for Missouri came on special teams when Kris Abrams-Draine returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Tennessee: Hooker, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, lost the preseason quarterback battle to Joe Milton, but since taking over as the starter in Game 3, he has emerged as a solid player. Hooker guided the Volunteers to scores on their first nine drives. He delivered touchdown passes of 35 yards to JaVonta Payton, 35 yards to Velus Jones Jr. and 24 yards to Cedric Tillman.
Missouri: It’s been a disastrous start to the tenure of first-year defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, a former NFL head coach. After using a 4-2-5 formation the first four games, Wilks started the game in a 3-3-5 against the Volunteers, but Tennessee was not bothered in the least by the new look. Missouri’s defensive line and linebackers couldn’t get off blocks, allowing Tennessee running backs to get into the secondary with ease.
Tennessee: The Volunteers play South Carolina at home on Oct. 9.
Missouri: The Tigers meet North Texas at home on Oct. 9.