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AN UGLY WIN IS STILL A WIN: Tennessee overcomes slow start to defeat Pitt

By: John Dunn

Founder, Managing Editor, Host

The All Vol Call in Show


Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) runs the ball during the first half of a game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Pittsburgh Panthers in Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel

Tennessee overcame a slow start, claiming victory over Pittsburgh, but proved there is still a lot of work to do.

The (24)Tennessee Volunteers got off to a slow start Saturday against (17)Pittsburgh in Acrisure Satdium. After stalling out on their first couple of drives, Tennessee found itself in a 10-0 hole with only minutes to go in the first quarter. Hendon Hooker and company found their first offensive success of the day with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter, as Jabari Small broke the plane for six.

The slow start was unusual for the Vols. Leading the nation in first quarter scoring and scoring margin in 2021, Tennessee found itself in unfamiliar territory early-on. However, after some time had passed, and players settled in, the Vols found themselves leading at the half, 24-17, thanks to two takeaways in the first half.

Tennessee began the second half by limiting Pittsburgh to minimal yardage, and zero points on its second half opening drive. The Panthers were without starting quarterback Kedon Slovis, who was injured on a sack-fumble just before the first half.

The Vols were unable to find any success of their own on their first drive of the second half, leaving the score at 24-17 with Pittsburgh taking back over on offense. Tennessee's defense managed to hold the Panthers off the scoreboard yet again, and regained possession of the ball leading 24-17 with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Again, the high-speed Vols failed to get anything going offensively.

On fourth down, Tennessee elected to punt, and the Pittsburgh special teams came up with a punt block, leaving the Panthers deep in Tennessee territory as they took back over on offense. Keeping with the theme of defense, the Vols' defense held again, forcing a Pitt field goal attempt. Pressure from the left edge by Kamal Hadden forced the Panthers' kicker to miss his second field goal of the game.

On Tennessee's ensuing drive Jaylen Wright had the ball ripped before he was down, allowing the Panthers to recover the fumble just inside of Vols territory. The Vols' defenses bent, but didn't break, seeing Pittsburgh connect on a field goal, drawing the score to 24-20 in favor of Tennessee heading into the final frame.

On the ensuing drive, the Vols did everything they could to find some offensive success. After converting a fourth down, Tennessee found itself playing behind the sticks. Kicker Chase McGrath delivered a 51-yard field goal to extend the Tennessee lead to 27-20 with 8:57 remaining in the game.

After holding Pittsburgh off the scoreboard again, the Vols were set to receive a punt, which was muffed by Trevon Flowers, and recovered by the Panthers, giving them another shot to knot the score. Pittsburgh began to march downfield, driving deep into Tennessee territory on a screen. After being held out of the endzone on the first three downs, the Panthers scored on fourth down, tying the game with 2:30 remaining in the game.

Tennessee regained possession and failed to do anything with it, leaving the game to head to overtime.

Tennessee scored on its first play from scrimmage in overtime, as Hendon Hooker danced around the left edge, up the left sideline, and into the endzone. The play was called back, due to holding. On the ensuing play, Hooker connected with Cedric Tillman for a touchdown, giving Tennessee a 34-27 lead in overtime.

The Vols held the Panthers out of the endzone and claimed a 34-27 victory in the Johnny Majors Classic. It was the first time Tennessee won a game against a ranked out of conference opponent on the road since 2003.


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