Tennessee football routs Akron but injuries, ejection loom ahead of Florida
Tennessee football coasted past Akron for a 63-6 win Saturday night at Neyland Stadium for its first 3-0 start since 2016.
In a warm-up for the upcoming Florida game, the No. 16 Vols dominated an inferior opponent from the Mid-American Conference.
But it didn't come without a few hold-your-breath moments. Starting running back Jabari Small and All-SEC wide receiver Cedric Tillman left the game with injuries, and wide receiver Jimmy Calloway was ejected for punching an Akron player.
The Vols led 35-0 at halftime and scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions. Tennessee gained 676 yards of total offense, the fifth-most in school history.
Tennessee fans showed up despite the opponent. It was an announced attendance of 101,915 for the first sellout at Neyland Stadium for a nonconference game since 2015 against Oklahoma.
Here are five observations from the Vols’ win over Akron (1-2).
Jalin Hyatt blazes to his best performance
Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt had the best game of his career by halftime, and he wasn’t done yet. Hyatt utilized his blazing speed to blister Akron’s secondary.
Early in the second quarter, he raced past a defender to catch a 57-yard TD pass, the longest reception of his career. Just before halftime, he caught a pass on a crossing route and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 48-yard TD. And in the third quarter, he caught a 47-yarder on a deep route.
Hyatt finished with five receptions. He had 166 yards and two TDs, both career highs.
Jimmy Calloway ejected for punching player
Calloway was ejected in the third quarter after throwing multiple punches.
Akron cornerback Tyson Durant appeared to grab Calloway's face mask after Calloway blocked downfield. Calloway threw multiple punches, striking Durant's helmet.
Calloway received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the play. Durant also was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The fouls were offsetting, but Calloway headed to the locker room.
Calloway had two catches for 20 yards. Although a backup at slot receiver, he touts play-making ability the Vols would like to utilize this season.
Defense didn’t budge when it counted
Tennessee’s first-team defense held firm and the backups held their own.
Akron didn’t gain a first down until it trailed 14-0. It missed a 40-yard field goal on its first scoring opportunity.
Then the Vols kept Akron out of the end zone with a violent collision near the goal line. Daniel George ran to the 5-yard line, where linebacker Jeremy Banks blasted him and caused a fumble. LaTrell Bumphus recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Akron finally got on the scoreboard with a field goal in the third quarter. Freshman Elijah Herring had two sacks to lead the way in the second half.
Hendon Hooker doesn’t miss a beat
Quarterback Hendon Hooker, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, had another standout performance. He was 14-of-18 passing for 298 yards and two TDs, making his weekly climb in the Tennessee record book.
Hooker’s 36th TD pass moved him into seventh place in Vols history, tying Jonathan Crompton (2006-09), Heath Shuler (1991-93) and Andy Kelly (1988-91). Even more impressive is that Hooker did it in just 16 games, including 14 starts, since transferring from Virginia Tech.
Hooker has tossed a TD pass in 15 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in school history. Shuler owns the record at 18 straight games. And Hooker hasn’t thrown an interception in 185 consecutive pass attempts, the longest streak in school history.
Backup Joe Milton tossed TD passes to Ramel Keyton and Walker Merrill in the second half.
Jabari Small injury puts backup running backs in spotlight
Small left with an injury after back-to-back rushing attempts to start the game. He walked off while athletic trainers held his right arm, but the nature of his injury was not disclosed.
That put Jaylen Wright and freshman Dylan Sampson into the game early, and they responded with two TDs each.Sampson scored a pair of TDs in the first half, both on option pitches on fourth-down plays. His first was a 9-yard TD run on a fourth-and-2, diving at the pylon for the score. And his second was an 11-yard sprint into the end zone on a fourth-and-4 play.
Wright ran hard and took the shorter route to the end zone, scoring on 1-yard and 2-yard rushes.
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