Spotting the highlights for Tennessee football in their 44-6 win over the Kentucky Wildcats isn’t hard. The two Hendon Hooker to Jalin Hyatt passes are obviously part of that. However, the plays that really dictated the flow of the game are a bit different. Here’s a look at the key moments in the Vols’ victory over UK.
Vols convert two 4th and 1 runs on second touchdown drive
Kentucky had driven down the field and scored after the first Hooker to Hyatt connection, and only a missed extra point kept them from tying it up. However, the Vols had to respond. Well, the big-play offense would have to move the ball down the field because of Kentucky’s defensive scheme.
Josh Heupel’s team was able to do just that. They mounted a 15-play touchdown drive. The whole drive is really the story, but truly key were two 4th and 1 plays. One was a sneak by Hendon Hooker near midfield, and another was a three-yard run by Jabari Small in the red zone. Princeton Fant finished it off with a run.
Chris Rodriguez Jr. stopped on 1st down run
That touchdown drive by Tennessee football was huge because it made sure the Vols wouldn’t let Kentucky take control of the game. However, they had to shut down Kentucky’s rushing attack. On the first play of the next drive, Chris Rodriguez Jr. was stopped for no gain.
That seems like nothing, but Rodriguez torched them running down the field on the previous drive. Getting this stop forced Kentucky to play behind the sticks took, and the Vols were able to cash in by forcing a three-and-out. That got them the ball back and their first shot at a two-score lead.
Jaylen Wright 35-yard run in the second quarter
A long drive probably would have been necessary once again once the Vols got the ball back after stuffing Rodriguez. In many ways, they did have that drive. However, there was one play on this drive that actually was a highlight and was crucial to what they were doing.
On 2nd and 5 from their own 28, Jaylen Wright took a handoff straight up the middle. He stayed on his feet after being hit in the secondary and gained over 10 more yards, picking up 35 yards in the process. This set up the touchdown, which was a one-yard run by Wright, to put the Vols up 20-6 in the game.
Juwan Mitchell intercepts Will Levis
After going up 20-6, Kentucky’s offense was driving again, showing that they wouldn’t go away. They made it 1st and 10 at the UT 15. That’s when Tennessee football’s resurgent secondary decided to come through and make a play, Doneiko Slaughter specifically.
On 3rd and 7, Slaughter laid a tough hit on a pass to a UK receiver that forced the ball to be popped into the air. Juwan Mitchell came down with the interception and returned it to midfield. This put the Vols in complete control, and Kentucky never really got down there again.
Kentucky false start in late first half
In spite of that interception, the Vols couldn’t capitalize, so Kentucky was still in the game. After UT punted, Kentucky got the ball at the two with two and a half minutes left. Then they got a first down and figured to run out the clock, going into halftime trailing two scores and with a chance to get the ball back.
However, Barion Brown ran out of bounds on a 2nd and 10 completion. Then, on 3rd and 6, Kentucky committed a crucial false start. That sequence pushed them behind the sticks and saved clock, so after the Vols stopped UK on 3rd and 11, they got a shot.
It didn’t take too long. Tennessee football got the ball back, and Hooker hit Hyatt for a 31-yard score to put the Vols up 27-6. That effectively ended the game, but it all came down to that sequence by Kentucky’s offense, and the false start was the most notable part of that.