Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) throws to receiver as he's hit by Pittsburgh linebacker SirVocea Dennis (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Vols Prepare to Bounce Back Against Tennessee Tech

The Tennessee Volunteers (1-1) host the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (0-2) at 12 p.m. on Saturday. The Vols lost a close 41-34 contest to Pitt in week 2, so they’ll hope to get back in the win column this weekend.

Tennessee starting quarterback Joe Milton III left the game in the first half with a leg injury and never returned, so his status is up in the air for Saturday. Redshirt senior Hendon Hooker played in his place against Pitt and threw for 188 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Josh Heupel has yet to name a starter, leaving a big question mark over for Saturday’s showdown in Neyland Stadium.

Heupel’s First Loss

After cruising to a 38-6 win against Bowling Green in week 1, the loss to Pitt marks Heupel’s first as Vols’ head coach.

Tennessee took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Panthers exploded for 27 points in the second quarter, and the Vols were never able to come back. The Panthers only outgained the Vols by 23 yards, as they finished with 397 yards to Tennessee’s 374.

The difference ended up being a fourth-quarter turnover. The Vols had the ball on the Panther’s 34-yard line with just over five minutes remaining in the game when Hooker threw a game-sealing interception.

Coach Heupel said moments like these after a tough loss are much more telling of the character of a team.

Heupel also gave an update on Milton’s injury status during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference. Milton took a big hit from Panthers defensive lineman Keyshon Camp in the second quarter and immediately went to the medical tent.

ESPN sideline reporter Tom Luginbill reported that the trainers were looking at Milton’s “lower-left extremity.”

Starting running back Jabari Small also went down with an injury in the second quarter. Heupel said he doesn’t have a “final word” on his status. Like Milton, they’ll get some more clarity on his ability to play as gameday approaches.

On the defensive side of the ball, heavily-anticipated pass rusher Byron Young will make his Tennessee debut on Saturday. The junior linebacker from Georgia Military College turned heads in spring ball as the potential future leader of the Vols pass rush but had to sit out two weeks due to NCAA eligibility rules.

Tennessee Tech’s Season

The Golden Eagles enter Saturday’s matchup after starting their season with two blowout losses. They lost 52-14 at Samford in week 1 and 26-0 to Furman in week 2.

Tennessee Tech averages just 176 yards per game, and starting quarterback Davis Shanley is off to a rough start. The graduate transfer from Western Kentucky has put up 219 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Fourth-year head coach Dewayne Alexander has a 9-21 record with the Golden Eagles.

Primed to Go

Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m. from Neyland Stadium on SEC Network+ and ESPN+.

About Parker Fluke

I'm a third-year student at the University of Florida passionate about storytelling and sportswriting. My goal is to work in communications for a professional sports team after I graduate.

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