Inside the play that flipped Tennessee football vs Missouri. It was 'too easy'

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Hendon Hooker couldn’t tell you who said it. But the Tennessee football quarterback knows exactly what was said.

“I heard somebody on the sideline say as soon as I was about to throw it, they were like, ‘Too easy,’ ” Hooker said.

It really was.

Hooker flung a 68-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Hyatt, setting No. 5 Tennessee (9-1, 5-1 SEC) on course for a 66-24 demolishing of Missouri (4-6, 2-5) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

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How the touchdown happened

Hyatt has spent a season running wide open in Josh Heupel’s offense. Hyatt might as well have been invisible Saturday on a play he credited to offensive analyst Mitch Militello.

The wide receiver crouched behind left guard Jerome Carvin at the Tennessee 30-yard line. Wide receiver Bru McCoy lined up to Hyatt’s left on the edge of the offensive line with left tackle Gerald Mincey flipped to the right side for an unbalanced look.

“It was definitely something different,” Hyatt said. “I think that is what threw them off.”

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Running back Dylan Sampson was split wide to Hooker's left. Sampson came in motion across the field. Hooker faked a handoff to the freshman as McCoy headed straight downfield and Hyatt split left before following downfield.

Missouri cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine initially followed Sampson and the Tigers' defense flowed in that direction. Abrams-Draine scrambled to reverse course to cover McCoy. But no one was left to mark Hyatt.

Hooker tossed an easy completion to Hyatt, who caught the ball at the UT 45. McCoy was a few yards ahead of Hyatt and shielded him from Abrains-Draine.

No one else stood a chance of catching the speedy Vols wide receiver.

“It’s been in my back pocket for a while,” Heupel said. “It’s been run different places. We brought it out this week, just felt like we’d have an opportunity to sneak him out.”

How the touchdown started an offensive onslaught

Missouri wide receiver Dominic Lovett burned Vols defensive back Tamarion McDonald for a 38-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter. Tennessee’s lead was down to four and the Vols needed an answer.

“It was pretty calm,” Heupel said. “Certainly the guys on the sideline don’t panic.”

Heupel put Sampson on the field for a spark. He caught a pass for 7 yards. Then the Vols struck with Hyatt’s 15th receiving touchdown and the onslaught began.

“It was very important,” Hooker said. “Every drive, we want to make sure we get six out of it. For us to get in the end zone was the main goal.”

Missouri’s defense entered Saturday allowing 21.4 points per game. The Vols tallied 21 on three drives in 5:16 in the third quarter. Tennessee scored five touchdowns on its final seven drives and kicked a field goal on another to tally 38 unanswered points.

Hooker threw another touchdown after the one to Hyatt. Jaylen Wright rushed for a 1-yard touchdown. Chase McGrath hit a 48-yard field goal as Tennessee’s 28-24 lead swelled to 52-24.

Joe Milton entered in the fourth, launching UT’s offense to more points. He threw a 46-yard touchdown to Ramel Keyton and a long pass to Squirrel White. Sampson finished the final drive with a 2-yard touchdown and Tennessee set a school-record 724 yards offensively.

It all started with Hyatt, the game-breaking wide receiver who did it again. He said it worked out perfectly. Heupel praised the staff for the timely call.

Hooker wasn’t surprised. The play was easy from the start.

“It is successful every time,” Hooker said.

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.