Tennessee tops LSU 40-13. Here are rapid reactions as the Vols improve to 5-0:
Rush defense made the difference for Tennessee football
If you factor in stopping the running backs and getting pressure on the run game, the Vols were superb. UT held LSU to 55 yards on 28 carries. In terms of the pass rush, they came away with five sacks. It was Byron Young’s breakout game, as he had two and a half sacks.
Everybody had been waiting on Young to emerge into a star, and he did just that in his game. That was enough for the Vols to win this game. A team known for offense won this game based on defense.
Special teams spotted the early lead
This hardly needs an explanation. LSU fumbled the opening kickoff. Then Dee Williams had a 58-yard return to set up a field goal. Yes, Chase McGrath missed a kick, but that was from 50 yards out, so that’s forgivable. Outside of that, though, special teams was elite for UT.
Given the issues facing the program heading into the game, it’s impossible to overstate how big of a deal this was. Special teams miscues could make a blowout a game. In Tennessee football’s case here, it made a game a blowout.
Receivers stepped up without Cedric Tillman
For the second straight game, Cedric Tillman had to miss action due to injury. Well, the rest of the receivers stepped up. Bru McCoy had seven catches for 140 yards, and Jalin Hyatt added four catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
LSU came in playing a lot of press coverage in this game, and they paid for it. Ramel Keyton had two catches for 19 yards, and Princeton Fant had two catches for 13 yards. Simply put, everybody stepped up for UT.
Hendon Hooker solidified his Heisman-caliber campaign
At a point in the game, Dan Orlovsky said Hendon Hooker should be the Heisman favorite. He’s right. Hooker completed 17 of 27 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
In the first half, Hooker got wrecked on a pass that messed up his accuracy. However, he recovered in the second half. He also ran it for 63 yards, once again going over 300 total yards. Hooker is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s single-season offensive yards record at Tennessee, and he took it to another level in this one.
Pass defense still needs some work
It’s hard to criticize a 40-13 win, but Tennessee football let a lot of things happen in the passing game early on. The Vols won because the stopped LSU on three fourth downs and came away with an interception late. That made the difference, but they did let Jayden Daniels throw for 300 yards.
This is an issue they’ll have to fix in the future. Overall, there’s not much to criticize. Most of the yards were allowed by design. However, it could have been better overall, and Tennessee football, despite a huge win, could still be in big trouble without fixing this issue.