KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If style points are important to No. 5 Tennessee, the Volunteers scored 66 of them Saturday.
Hendon Hooker threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score to lead the Volunteers (9-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 5 College Football Playoff) to a 66-24 victory over Missouri (4-6, 2-5).
Tennessee bounced back from its first loss of the season to Georgia last week by setting a school record with 724 total offensive yards, eclipsing 718 against Troy in 2012.
Was that a statement to the College Football Playoff Committee?
“The statement is that we're a good football team playing good football,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said.
The Volunteers did have trouble containing a Missouri attack that has struggled this season. The Tigers rushed for 172 yards, more than any other team against Tennessee this year.
Missouri quarterback Brady Cook did the most damage, running for 106 yards and throwing for 217.
The Tigers even cut the Vols' lead to 28-24 early in the third quarter before Tennessee took off.
“Kind of the wheels fell off,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said of the Vols' 38 unanswered points.
Heupel said his team doesn't panic: “We just settled in and played better football.”
Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt caught seven passes for 146 yards and a touchdown and Bru McCoy caught nine passes for 111 yards.
“Tennessee is really good and Hendon Hooker and those guys play really well,” Drinkwitz said. “But we weren't ourselves.”
Hooker threw for 229 yards in the first half (17 of 24) as Tennessee led 28-17 at intermission. Cook had 94 yards passing and 86 rushing for Missouri. His late 40-yard scramble set up a Harrison Mevis field goal as time expired.
FACTS & FIGURES
Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman, who missed several games early in the season with an ankle injury, played in the Vols' last two games. He dressed for warmups Saturday, but after being introduced for Senior Day, changed into street clothes. Heupel said Tillman could have played, injury wasn't an issue, but “the best situation was for him to sit this one out.” ... Vols WR Jalin Hyatt became the ninth in school history to go over 1,000 yards receiving. ... Hyatt's 68-yard TD reception put him in sixth place for the SEC single-season touchdown receptions (15). ... For the first time in his career, Missouri's Cook rushed for more than 100 yards.
Tennessee is in a precarious situation in terms of the College Football Playoff rankings. The Vols are ranked No. 5, on the outside looking in, with two unranked teams — South Carolina and Vanderbilt — left on the schedule. The Vols have to be watching Oregon and TCU closely, waiting for either to stumble. Both have quality opponents ahead, as well as likely conference championship games.
Missouri: Even with the possibility of a seventh loss looming — the Tigers will be favored against New Mexico State next week but will end the season with a home game against Arkansas — they will still be candidates for a third straight bowl game. Mizzou’s Academic Progress Rate in football is 983. It’s likely high enough for a 5-7 Tigers team to be invited to fill one of the open bowl spots if there aren’t enough 6-6 or better teams.
Tennessee: The primary challenge for the Vols was to get their swagger back after being dismantled by Georgia last week. That mission was accomplished, putting them back on the right track to put their best foot forward in their final two games at South Carolina and at Vanderbilt.
Missouri: The Tigers get a breather from the grind of the SEC schedule and will entertain New Mexico State next Saturday night.
Tennessee: Focused on winning as much as generating style points for the College Playoff committee, the Vols will travel to South Carolina for a tough challenge next Saturday night.