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HomeSportsHooker, defense lead No. 24 UT past No. 17 Pitt in OT

Hooker, defense lead No. 24 UT past No. 17 Pitt in OT


59 minutes ago
Associated Press

Photo: Justin Berl/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Hendon Hooker threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, the final one a 28-yard heave to Cedric Tillman in overtime, and No. 24 Tennessee edged No. 17 Pittsburgh 34-27 in overtime on Saturday.

The Volunteers (2-0) picked up the first significant nonconference win under second-year coach Josh Heupel by relying on Hooker and a defense that was just good enough against a game effort by the Panthers (1-1), who lost starting quarterback Kedon Slovis to a injury at the end of the first half.

Backup Nick Patti essentially played the fourth quarter and overtime on one leg, limping noticeably on every play after absorbing a sack early in the final quarte. But Patti found Jared Wayne for a diving 4-yard touchdown with 2:23 to go in regulation to tie the game.

The Volunteers got the ball first in overtime. Hooker appeared to give them the lead with a touchdown run only to have it called back by a penalty. No matter. He dropped back and threw a jump ball to Tillman in the end zone. The 6-foot-3 senior boxed out a Pitt defender to haul it in to put Tennessee in front.

Patti drove Pitt inside the Tennessee 10 but took a sack that forced the Panthers back to the Tennessee 30. Patti’s heave over the middle on fourth down fell incomplete and the Volunteers poured onto the field in triumph.

Tillman caught nine passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Jabari Small ran for two short scores for the Volunteers. Bru McCoy added a 32-yard touchdown reception in the first half that tied the game.

Israel Abanikanda ran for 154 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers. Slovis completed 14 of 24 for 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception but the USC transfer didn’t play in the second half after sustaining an undisclosed injury while getting sacked late in the second quarter.

Patti, who lost a training camp with Slovis for the starting job, struggled with his accuracy but made up for it with his grit. He hit just 9 of 20 passes for 79 yards but somehow managed to stay in the game despite being in significant pain.

THE TAKEAWAY

Tennessee: The Volunteers are eyeing a big step forward this fall. Whether they take it will rely heavily on a defense that struggled against quality opponents in 2021. So far, so good. While Tennessee gave up a couple of big plays early, the Volunteers settled in and made things very difficult for Slovis, Patti and company.

Pitt: The offense entered the season with plenty of question marks following Kenny Pickett’s graduation. The offensive line was not supposed to be one of them. There were times Saturday where there were multiple white jerseys in the Panther backfield almost immediately after the snap.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Panthers could potentially fall out of the poll for the first time since Halloween after letting an early 11-point lead get away. The Volunteers should vault into the Top 20 for the first time since October 2016 after a gritty road win over a team that harbored hopes – now dashed – of becoming a dark-horse College Football Playoff participant.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: Hosts Akron next Saturday, with a visit from Florida looming on Sept. 24.

Pitt: Travels to Western Michigan next Saturday hoping to avenge a stunning home loss to the Broncos last fall.

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