Hendon Hooker Has Superman Performance In Tennessee’s Biggest Win Since 2016

The atmosphere lived up to the billing and Hendon Hooker lived up to the hype on Saturday for Tennessee versus Florida. What turned out to be one of the craziest buildups to a game I have ever seen in Knoxville, the Vols delivered for the over 100,000 fans in attendance.

We were wondering if Hendon Hooker could take care of the Gators defense, finding a way to pick up multiple first downs on the ground. But it was what the quarterback did through the air that turned this game upside-down. Leading the 11th team in the country is one thing, but being able to fully operate this Josh Heupel offense is another.

In front of a sold-out crowd in Knoxville, with the stands looking like a checkerboard, Hooker accounted for over 450 yards of total offense, with 349 yards through the air, 112 on the ground and three total touchdowns.

If you were looking for Tennessee’s superman, he was wearing #5. Even with Gators LB Ventrell Miller causing problems in the Vols backfield, Hooker found a way to continue making plays.

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker throws a pass
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker was excellent when he needed to be (Photo courtesy Tennessee Athletics)

The calmness of Hooker is one of the advantages for Josh Heupel and the Vols, especially when he’s able to make something out of a broken play. His teammates reactions will tell the whole story if you pay attention, as they ran to celebrate with him after his 3rd touchdown.

While listening to Garth Brooks’ ‘Friends in Low Places’ over the loudspeaker, it was up to the Tennessee defense to finish off he Gators.

Photo by Trey Wallace.

It wouldn’t be Tennessee versus Florida if it didn’t come down to some type of crazy plays in the fourth quarter. After Omari Thomas punched the ball out of the hands of Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, Jeremy Banks scooped it up at the Tennessee 12-yard line, with the Vols coming up with the massive stop.

But this game always centered around Hendon Hooker, which he proved on the next play, hitting Jacob Warren down the sidelines for a 45-yard play. As the crowd began to feel the win within its grasps, Josh Heupel decided to finally slow it down, looking to put away the Gators.

The ‘CheckerBoard’ Neyland crowd rarely sat down, hanging on to every single play as they drove down for another touchdown, making it 38-21 Tennessee, and driving the crowd into pure elation.

We all wondered what a Heisman Trophy coming-out party might look like, and this game most certainly put Hendon Hooker on the national radar.

Hendon Hooker
Vols QB Hendon Hooker (5) stands on the sidelines ahead of the matchup agains the Florida gators on Sept. 24, 2022. Photo by Trey Wallace.

This is what Tennessee has been searching for since 2016. While the crowd sang ‘Rocky Top’ with 7:55 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Vols comfortably leading, a sense of calm finally came over the Vols crowd.

That calm dissipated, however. Florida scored a touchdown on its ensuing possession, stopped the Vols on fourth down, and scored again. Then, unbelievably, the Gators recovered an onside kick with just 17 seconds left in the game, trailing by five. Florida pushed the ball to the Tennessee 39 and got into within striking distance for the victory.

However, pressure on Anthony Richardson on the final play caused him to heave it towards three Volunteers and the pass was intercepted by Kamal Hadden. As if written by a Hollywood screenwriter, Hadden — like Hooker — wears #5.

Thanks to Hendon Hooker and the Vols, that monkey is finally off the back of Tennessee. Josh Heupel had his team rolling and for the fans, it was time to celebrate following the 38-33 victory.

Welcome to the Heisman Conversation, Hendon Hooker.

Read Trey Wallace’s latest coverage here, and follow along on Twitter.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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