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WATCH: Hendon Hooker propels Tennessee past Vanderbilt with big-play attack

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Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) gets his hands on the ball but it falls incomplete in the NCAA college football game between the Tennesse Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, November 27, 2021.Kns Tennessee Vanderbilt Football
Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (4) gets his hands on the ball but it falls incomplete in the NCAA college football game between the Tennesse Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, November 27, 2021.Kns Tennessee Vanderbilt Football

Hendon Hooker threw for two touchdowns before leaving with a left hand injury Saturday as Tennessee closed its regular season with a 45-21 win over Vanderbilt in Knoxville, Tenn.

Hooker completed 10 of 18 passes for 156 yards as the Volunteers (7-5, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) beat their in-state rivals for the third straight year. Tennessee now waits to see what bowl game it will get invited to, making coach Josh Heupel’s first season a big success.

Mike Wright hit on 16 of 31 passes for 198 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Commodores (2-10, 0-8), which have now lost 21 consecutive SEC games, dating back to 2019.

Wright’s one big mistake put Vanderbilt down 7-0 less than three minutes into the game. He tossed an interception that Theo Jackson returned 55 yards for a touchdown.

After the Commodores controlled the ball for most of the first quarter, the Volunteers took over in the second quarter, cranking up their high-powered attack. Jabari Small’s 6-yard scoring run with 9:05 left in the half upped the margin to 14-0 and Hooker made it 21-0 less than five minutes later on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Tillman.

Chase McGrath connected on a 31-yard field goal in the last minute, but Wright got Vanderbilt on the board with a Hail Mary pass of 56 yards to Will Sheppard, drawing it within 24-7 at halftime.

The Commodores’ momentum lasted all of 33 seconds. On the second play of the third quarter, Hooker and Tillman hooked up for a 46-yard touchdown pass that increased the lead to 31-7.

Rocko Griffin scored on a 13-yard touchdown run for Vanderbilt at the 6:28 mark of the third, but Tennessee answered back 76 seconds later with Small’s second touchdown run, an 11-yarder.

Each team added a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Wright scored on a 4-yard run with 9:17 remaining for the Commodores and Jaylen Wright countered for the Volunteers with a 10-yard run at the 3:12 mark.

–Field Level Media