Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker showed how real of a threat the Vols could be this season, passing for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushing for 112 yards and another TD in a 38-33 win over Florida on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
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Hendon Hooker ignites Tennessee’s pursuit of SEC East leader Georgia, enters Heisman Trophy race

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Hendon Hooker hoisted Tennessee football on his shoulders Saturday afternoon, lifting the Vols to a 38-33 victory over Florida.

Hooker was 22-of-28 passing for 349 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he also led No. 11-ranked Tennessee with 112 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries.

“I really didn’t feel any spotlight or any stage,” said Hooker, a 24-year-old, sixth-year player who transferred to the SEC school from Virginia Tech following the 2020 season.

The Vols haven’t beaten the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs since Kirby Smart’s first season, in 2016, and it took a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.

“They’re not hungry,” ESPN GameDay host Rece Davis said, after citing the rivalry stat, “they’re starving to death.”

Saturday’s matchup featured a feeding frenzy for football junkies craving offense, the Vols and Gators combining for 1,170 with Hooker and Anthony Richardson in a dual-threat shootout.

“It’s very different, we have a very good feel for the system and the play calling,” Small said. “We do a lot of studying film on the defense so we know what will pop and we know what’s open.”

And all of the Vols know that with Hooker, anything is possible this season.

“After he busted a long run, I told him on the field, ‘you’re special,’ " Small said. “I’m a fan right now.”

So is Heupel: Once a Heisman Trophy runner-up himself, the Tennessee head coach knows he has the right quarterback in the right offensive system to warrant Heisman Trophy hype.

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“Hendon was fierce, played like a warrior tonight, (and) he was relentless in the way he competed,” Heupel said. “He played at an unbelievably elite level.

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