By Josh Ward
Tennessee fans needed that win over LSU.
Not just that win – that kind of win.
Tennessee dominated LSU from beginning to end at Tiger Stadium on Saturday. The game was all but over after kickoff when LSU fumbled the ball to Tennessee, setting up a Vols touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
Tennessee fans needed a win that they never had to sweat.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker led the way on offense with 295 total yards and two touchdowns while Jabari Small ran for 127 yards and two scores. Jalin Hyatt and Bru McCoy combined for more than 200 receiving yards.
Tennessee’s offense did what it wanted on Saturday.
The Vols converted all three fourth-down attempts.
Looking to take a shot down field after failed LSU fourth-down try, Hooker delivered a perfect 45-yard touchdown pass to Hyatt.
Needing to bleed the clock in the fourth quarter, the Vols ran a 13-play drive that lasted nearly nine minutes to seal Tennessee’s win.
“Find me the flaw in this offense right now,” ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky said during the TV broadcast as he raved about the Vols’ performance.
How long have Tennessee fans been waiting to hear that kind of commentary about their team?
The Vols have delivered a team that’s fun to pull for and fans have followed.
It looked and sounded like Tennessee fans were the only people left in LSU’s stadium as the Vols ran out the clock.
Tennessee fans took over an opposing stadium as several teams’ fanbases have done at Neyland Stadium over the last 15 years.
Tennessee also had some payback due to LSU.
2000. 2001. 2006. 2007. 2010.
Too many games in the recent series with LSU have gone the Tigers’ way while the Vols were left to feel pain.
Tennessee fans needed to return that feeling to LSU on Saturday.
“Our fanbase, I can’t say enough about it,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said after the win. “Phenomenal. Driving in and seeing all the orange, banging on the bus, getting into the stadium and seeing it everywhere inside the stadium – just appreciate our fanbase, man. Our players do, too.”
Tennessee fans appreciate a coaching staff and team that has them believing again.
And believing in mid-October. It’s been too long since Tennessee fans truly cared about the SEC standings and national polls entering the third Saturday in October.
Which brings us to next week. As Tennessee was wrapping up the blowout win in Baton Rouge, UT fans offered a “we want Bama” chant.
Be careful what you wish for, I know, but this is the first time Tennessee fans can confidently look forward to their chance at beating Alabama in quite some time.
The Vols will be underdogs at home next week, but with one of the nation’s top offenses led by one of the nation’s best coach-quarterback combinations, why shouldn’t fans be confident?
Knoxville will be rocking next week. The nation will be talking about Tennessee-Alabama meaning something for the first time since before any of the current players can remember.
Next week is going to be fun.
So enjoy it, Tennessee fans. You’ve waited long enough.