Oct 16, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers linebacker Byron Young (6) tackles Mississippi Rebels running back Jerrion Ealy (9) during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee officials apologize after chaos vs. Ole Miss

Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said she was “sickened” by the conduct of home fans Saturday night in the Volunteers’ loss to Mississippi — behavior that caused a stoppage of nearly 20 minutes as fans threw water bottles and other objects onto the field in the closing minute.

“I am astonished and sickened by the behavior of some Vol fans at the end of tonight’s game,” she posted to social media after the game. “Good sportsmanship must be part of who we are as Volunteers. Behavior that puts student-athletes, visitors and other fans at risk is not something we will tolerate. I will be calling (Mississippi) Chancellor (Glenn) Boyce in the morning to offer my personal apology on behalf of the University of Tennessee and discuss what we can do to make this right. Neyland Stadium has always been a place for families, and we’ll keep it that way.”

With 54 seconds left, after officials ruled Tennessee’s attempt to convert a fourth-and-24 play failed by about a yard, fans began throwing things onto the turf. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, the former Volunteers coach, was hit by a golf ball in the arm. His players put on their helmets for safety, the Tennessee cheerleaders, dance squad and marching band filed out, and the student section was cleared.

Tennessee got the ball back and had a chance to score in the waning seconds, but backup quarterback Joe Milton, with the ball at the Ole Miss 21, couldn’t find an open receiver and ran, falling 8 yards short of a score as time expired. Ole Miss won 31-26.

Tennessee athletic director Danny White also said he apologized to his counterpart at Mississippi.

“Our Tennessee fanbase had much to be proud of through 59 minutes of football Saturday night — they created one of the best live sporting event atmospheres I’ve ever experienced — but what transpired in the game’s final minute was unacceptable.

“While I’m incredibly proud of our team’s effort on the field, I’m disappointed that their relentless performance was overshadowed in the game’s closing moments by the actions of several fans whose actions did not represent the Volunteer Spirit or the true character of our university.

“On behalf of the University of Tennessee, I’d like to apologize to the Ole Miss football program and congratulate their student-athletes on a hard fought win. I spoke with Keith Carter after the game and expressed the same sentiment to him.”

–Field Level Media

Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral (2) is knocked over by Tennessee defensive back Trevon Flowers (1) during an SEC football game between Tennessee and Ole Miss at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

Kns Tennessee Ole Miss Football

No. 13 Ole Miss survives, earns wild win over Vols

Matt Corral accounted for 426 total yards Saturday night as No. 13 Mississippi held off Tennessee for a wild 31-26 win in Knoxville, Tenn.

Corral completed 21 of 38 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns with his first interception of the year. He also rushed for 195 yards on 30 carries as the Rebels (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) outgained the Volunteers (4-3, 2-2) 510-467.

Tennessee’s last chance to win the game ended when backup quarterback Joe Milton ran out of bounds at the Ole Miss 8-yard line after a 13-yard gain as time expired. Milton replaced injured starter Hendon Hooker, who hit 17 of 26 passes for 233 yards while running for 108 yards and accounting for two scores.

The game was delayed for 20 minutes with 54 seconds left in the game after Hooker’s 23-yard pass to Jacob Warren on fourth-and-24 was spotted nearly a yard shy of a first down.

After replay upheld the spotting of the ball, the sellout crowd of 102,455 at Neyland Stadium forced the delay by throwing all kinds of debris on the field. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was nearly struck by a golf ball and a police officer was drilled with a water bottle.

Ole Miss initiated scoring just over five minutes into the game when Snoop Conner scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 1-yard run. But Tennessee responded with nine points in 44 seconds as Omari Thomas sacked Corral in the end zone for a safety, followed by Hooker’s 16-yard scoring strike to Cedric Tillman.

The Rebels answered with 17 straight points. Caden Costa’s 30-yard field goal with 44 seconds left in the first quarter put them ahead for good. Corral hit Dannis Jackson with a 33-yard touchdown pass and Conner added a second 1-yard scoring run for a 24-9 advantage.

Chase McGrath’s 39-yard field goal on the half’s final play drew the Volunteers within 24-12 and they pulled within five points on Jabari Small’s 1-yard touchdown run just over two minutes into the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Matt Corral (2) carries the ball against Arkansas Razorbacks at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 Ole Miss, Tennessee expect high-scoring affair

If you like your college football fast-paced and high-scoring, the Saturday night Southeastern Conference matchup between Tennessee and No. 13 Ole Miss in Knoxville, Tenn., might be for you.

The Rebels (4-1, 1-1 SEC) are putting up 46.2 points per game, which ranks fourth in FBS, while the Volunteers’ average of 41.5 points is seventh. No team in the Power 5 squeeze off more plays per minute than these two as Ole Miss clicks off 2.89 offensive plays per minute with Tennessee (4-2, 2-1) right behind at 2.87.

Quantity translates into quality in both cases. The Rebels score 1.75 points per minute, good for second in the FBS, and the Volunteers’ 1.58 is third. Or as Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin famously said before his team’s 42-21 loss at Alabama on Oct. 2, get out your popcorn.

“You can see offensively that there’s a rhyme and a reason behind everything they’re doing,” first-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “They’re going to put defenses in a conflict. They do a great job of being balanced and creating big plays, too.”

Shockingly, so have the Volunteers. In a 180-degree turn from last year’s 3-7 disaster, when they scored only 215 points (21.5 per game), they have already surpassed that meager output. Heupel’s new approach is one reason and the play of Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker is another.

Hooker was QB2 behind Michigan transfer Joe Milton III when the season started on Sept. 2. Milton was injured in a Sept. 11 loss to Pittsburgh, and it appears he’s been Wally Pipped. No quarterback in the SEC has been more efficient than Hooker.

In a 45-20 blowout of South Carolina last week, Hooker hit on 17 of 23 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He is completing 69.6 percent of his passes with a 13-1 touchdown-interception ratio.

“He’s become better, more vocal, more ownership on the football field and in the locker (room) with our team as well,” Heupel said of Hooker.

Hooker likely will have to be at his best to match Rebels quarterback Matt Corral. All Corral did last week in a wild 52-51 win over Arkansas was throw for 287 yards and two touchdowns while running for 94 yards and two more scores.

Corral has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 1,497 yards (299.4 yards per game) with 12 scores and no interceptions this season. He may have to continue to be that good to make up for a defense that has sprung leaks when faced with SEC competition.

Alabama ran over the top of Ole Miss two weeks ago, and the Razorbacks went from getting blanked at Georgia to putting more than half a hundred. The only saving grace for the Rebels was that they stopped Arkansas’ potential game-winning two-point conversion with no time on the clock.

“We stopped them on one play in the second half, so I guess that’s a good thing,” said Kiffin, who was Tennessee’s head coach in 2009.

Ole Miss permitted a whopping 676 yards (326 passing, 350 rushing) and 39 first downs to the Razorbacks, but Kiffin doesn’t plan to switch from the 3-2-6 scheme implemented before the season.

“We know it works, but if we don’t tackle, it doesn’t matter where the people are,” he said.

This will be the teams’ first meeting since 2014, when the Rebels routed Tennessee 34-3 in a game later vacated due to NCAA ruling. The Volunteers lead the series 44-19-1, with the original record 44-20-1 before the 2014 game was deleted.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) runs against Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire (9) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina’s opportunistic defense aims to stop Tennessee

The Tennessee Volunteers likely will look to their ground game on Saturday when they oppose South Carolina in Knoxville, Tenn.

South Carolina (3-2, 0-2 SEC) leads the league with nine interceptions. The Gamecocks also lead the SEC with five fumble recoveries.

Jaylan Foster, a Gamecocks free safety who is a sixth-year senior and a former walk-on, leads the SEC with four interceptions, and he’s quite a story.

Tennessee (3-2, 1-1) hopes to counter South Carolina’s opportunistic defense by running the ball. The Volunteers rank second in the SEC with 255 rushing yards per game. That’s in sharp contrast to the Gamecocks’ ground game, which ranks 11th in the league (121 yards per game).

The South Carolina defense, however, is yielding just 17.4 points per game, which ranks fifth in the league. Tennessee is ninth at 21.8 points per game allowed.

Both teams have first-year coaches.

Josh Heupel was hired at Tennessee after the Volunteers went 3-7 last year, the program’s lowest win total since 1924. Following the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, fully one-quarter of Tennessee’s roster transferred out.

Shane Beamer was hired at South Carolina after the Gamecocks went 2-8 last year, including a 31-27 home loss to the Volunteers.

Now comes the rematch.

“We have a big test against South Carolina,” Heupel said this week. “They’re a good football team. Look at how they have played inside the conference against two quality SEC opponents.”

Heupel was referencing — oddly — South Carolina’s 40-13 loss to Georgia. The Bulldogs led that game 40-6 after three quarters.

South Carolina’s other loss was closer, but the Gamecocks never led while falling 16-10 against visiting Kentucky.

Last week, the Gamecocks were unimpressive on offense in a 23-14 win over Troy.

“I feel like I aged 40 years during that game,” Beamer said. “We talk about playing smart football, but we didn’t do that on Saturday.”

The Gamecocks have rushed for just one touchdown in five games, but they have scored three defensive TDs so far this year.

South Carolina’s offense is led by quarterback Luke Doty, who missed the first two games this year due to a foot injury. He has completed 59 percent of his passes for 566 yards while throwing for three touchdowns and getting intercepted once.

Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris, who rushed for 1,138 yards last year, has struggled this year (142 yards in four games). His average rush has gone from 6.2 last year to 3.1 this season.

Tennessee’s offense is led by quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has completed 69 percent of his passes for 838 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception. The Virginia Tech transfer is also a dangerous runner, rushing for 216 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Tiyon Evans leads Tennessee in rushing yards (367) and TDs (five) and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) lines up a pass during the first quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee, Missouri attempt to rebound from disappointing losses

Missouri and Tennessee will both seek a bounce-back win when then meet in a Southeastern Conference matchup on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

The Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) are coming off a 38-14 loss at Florida. The Tigers (2-2, 0-1) absorbed a 41-34 overtime defeat at Boston College after tying the game on Harrison Mevis’ 56-yard field goal as time ran out in regulation.

“You cannot hang on to the pain,” Tigers coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “You’ve got to keep moving forward. You cannot hang onto the pain.”

Quarterback Connor Bazelak (300 passing yards per game) and running back Tyler Badie (104.3 rushing yards per game) lead a potent Missouri offense, but the Tigers have given up 269.2 yards per game on the ground to opponents. That ranks No. 129 among the 130 FBS teams.

Tennessee’s upbeat offensive pace concerns Drinkwitz.

“When somebody is snapping the ball three plays every 60 seconds, there are a lot of opportunities for error,” Drinkwitz said. “And they capitalize on those errors.”

The Volunteers will be on the road for a second consecutive week after opening with three home games. They were within 17-14 of the then-No. 11 Gators at the half last week but were blanked 21-0 over the final two quarters.

Hendon Hooker passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game after absorbing a hard hit in the fourth quarter. His status for this week was unclear, but coach Josh Heupel said the Virginia Tech transfer was not in concussion protocol.

If Hooker can’t go, Michigan transfer Joe Milton III, who started the first two games, likely will start over Harrison Bailey, who has appeared in only one game. Milton has completed 20 of 43 passes for 243 yards in three outings. Hooker is 46 of 70 for 613 yards with seven touchdowns.

“We’ll see where we’re at during the course of this week and go from there,” Heupel said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Emory Jones (5) runs with the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the third quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Emory Jones propels No. 11 Florida past Tennessee

Emory Jones threw for 209 yards and ran for 144 Saturday night as No. 11 Florida pulled away from Tennessee in the second half for a 38-14 SEC win in Gainesville, Fla.

Jones completed 21 of 27 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions, marking the first time in four games that he hadn’t tossed a pick. Jones threw five in his first three games. In this one, he spearheaded a balanced effort by the Gators (3-1, 1-0 SEC), who finished with 505 total yards.

Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker hit 13 of 23 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions before leaving with just under nine minutes left in the game with an undisclosed injury.

Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) moved the ball well in the first half but cooled off after halftime, getting blanked over the final 30 minutes as it lost to the Gators for the 16th time in 17 games.

Florida initiated scoring at the 9:20 mark of the first quarter when Jones hit Malik Davis with a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Volunteers answered back just over two minutes later when Hooker hooked up with Tiyon Evans for a screen pass that went 47 yards for a tying score.

After Jace Christmann toed a 47-yard field goal for the Gators, Tennessee took its only lead when Hooker took advantage of a coverage bust, hitting JaVonta Payton on a go route down the left-side numbers for a 75-yard touchdown.

The Gators took the lead for good with 4:15 left in the first half as Nay’Quan Wright zipped 23 yards to make it 17-14 at the half.

Florida used a double pass to cap its first drive of the third quarter. Jones hit Trent Whittemore with a lateral to the left side and he connected with Kemore Gamble on a 13-yard touchdown.

Jones added a 9-yard scoring strike to Rick Wells with 2:04 remaining in the third to make it 31-14 and Davis tacked on a 9-yard touchdown run at the 1:39 mark of the fourth quarter.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee defensive back Alontae Taylor (2) defends against Bowling Green safety Davion Daniels (26) during a game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

Kns Tennessee Bowling Green Football

Pitt, Tennessee square off in Majors Classic

Pittsburgh and Tennessee share the field for the first time in 38 years on Saturday when they meet in the Johnny Majors Classic at Knoxville, Tenn.

A two-game series was put together to honor Majors, the College Hall of Famer who died in June 2020 at age 85.

Majors coached Pitt for two stints and guided the 1976 team to the national championship behind star running back Tony Dorsett. He also spent 16 seasons at alma mater Tennessee (1977-92), where he was an All-American running back in 1956.

“It’s unique that Coach Majors had such a huge impact on both programs,” first-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel said at a press conference. “As a player and a coach, his legacy lives on here at Tennessee. He’s a part of the foundation of who we are. He’s a cornerstone of it. I think it’s a fitting opportunity to pay tribute to him from both programs.”

A second Johnny Majors Classic will be held next season at Pittsburgh.

Both teams are 1-0 this season.

The Panthers rolled to a 51-7 victory over Massachusetts and Tennessee outclassed Bowling Green 38-6.

Heupel’s first victory for the Volunteers featured a ground attack with 331 yards. Tiyon Evans rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Jabari Small had 117 and a score on 22 carries.

Quarterback Joe Milton III, a transfer from Michigan, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one while completing 11 of 23 passes for 139 yards.

The Volunteers allowed just 219 yards with defensive back Theo Jackson leading the way with 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.

Tennessee attempts to slow down Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett, who ranks fifth in school history with 8,256 passing yards. Pickett passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns versus UMass.

Heupel saw Pickett twice when he was coach at Central Florida. The teams split the two meetings in 2018 and 2019 with Pickett passing for 387 total yards.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi expects to see familiar schemes from the Vols.

“We got a Tennessee team that we haven’t played the personnel there, but Josh Heupel coming from UCF, having two games with them, gives us a little bit of an advantage,” Narduzzi said at a press conference. “It gives them an advantage as well because they know who we are on both sides of the ball.”

Linebacker John Petrishen had two of Pitt’s five sacks in the opener.

Pitt won both previous meetings — in 1980 and 1983 in Knoxville when Majors was Tennessee’s coach.

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joe Milton III (7) throws the ball against Bowling Green Falcons linebacker Darren Anders (23) during the first quarter at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee rolls up 326 yards rushing in rout of Bowling Green

Quarterback Joe Milton rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another Thursday night as Tennessee gave new coach Josh Heupel a win in his first game, dumping Bowling Green 38-6 in Knoxville, Tenn.

Milton, a Michigan transfer who beat out Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker and holdover Harrison Bailey for the job, wasn’t quite as proficient in the air. Milton was just 11 of 23 for 140 yards, overthrowing a spate of deep passes before connecting with Cedric Tillman on a 40-yard score with 5:11 left in the game.

But the Volunteers were able to overpower the Falcons with their ground game. Jabari Small rushed for 116 yards and a score on 22 carries, while Tiyon Evans added 116 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. For the game, Tennessee outrushed its Mid-American Conference opponent 326-32.

Bowling Green stayed in the game for a half, using a short passing game to control the ball for long stretches of the second quarter. Matt McDonald hit 25 of 38 attempts for 187 yards, spraying his passes to eight different receivers.

The Falcons trailed only 14-6 at halftime as they got 42- and 50-yard field goals from Nate Needham, but never made much headway in the second half.

The Volunteers scored on their first two possessions on 4- and 1-yard runs by Milton and Small, respectively. Both drives lasted less than three minutes as Tennessee clicked off plays at seven-second intervals.

After halftime, the Volunteers found rhythm offensively with the running game. Milton’s 1-yard run just over two minutes into the third quarter made it 21-6 and Evans dashed in from 19 yards with 7:51 left for a 28-6 lead.

Chase McGrath converted a 43-yard field goal with 9:36 left in the game for Tennessee, which finished the night with a 471-219 advantage in total yards. The Volunteers earned 30 first downs to Bowling Green’s 11.

The Falcons, which were winless in five games last year, were flagged 11 times for 85 yards.

–Field Level Media

Aug 28, 2021; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Barkley (14) is hit as he throws a pass against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Titans part ways with veteran Matt Barkley

The Tennessee Titans released veteran quarterback Matt Barkley Wednesday, less than a month after the team inked him to a deal in free agency.

Barkley, 30, was the team’s leading passer during the 2021 preseason, completing 24 of 39 passes (61.5 percent) for 295 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

A fourth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, Barkley has completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 2,699 yards, 11 TDs and 22 interceptions in 19 games (seven starts) with the Eagles (2013-14), Chicago Bears (2016) and Buffalo Bills (2018-20).

Logan Woodside, a 2018 draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, is now in line to resume backup quarterback duties for the Titans following a similarly solid preseason performance. This preseason, the 26-year-old completed 29 of 40 attempts (72.5 percent) for 248 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

Returning starter Ryan Tannehill didn’t log any time this preseason, most recently missing the team’s 27-24 loss to the Bears Aug. 28 while on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

–Field Level Media

Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III (7) during morning football practice on campus on Friday, August 20, 2021.

Kns Ut Football Practice Bp

Transfer Joe Milton to start opener at QB for Tennessee

Michigan transfer Joe Milton will open the season as the starting quarterback for Tennessee.

New Volunteers coach Josh Heupel made the announcement Monday but said he wasn’t prepared to name a backup.

Tennessee opens the season Thursday against Bowling Green in Knoxville.

Milton had been vying with former Virginia Tech starter Hendon Hooker and Harrison Bailey, a top quarterback prospect in the 2020 class, for the starting job.

While Hooker and Bailey were with the Volunteers in the spring, Milton didn’t transfer to Tennessee until the summer session.

“He’s really done a good job, really a great job of fitting in, adjusting, learning, growing,” Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh said Wednesday. “He spent a bunch of time in May, June, July learning the system. He’s a football-smart young man. He’s played in games that matter. For him, it’s just been a terminology, a progression, a read.”

The 6-foot-5 Milton started the season opener for Michigan last year in a 49-24 win against Minnesota but was benched in their fourth game, against Wisconsin, as the Wolverines’ COVID-shortened season spiraled out of control. He also battled through a thumb injury.

Last season, Milton completed 56.7 percent of his passes for 1,077 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. A redshirt junior, he has three seasons of eligibility left, gaining a year because of COVID-19 exemptions.

–Field Level Media