After epic win, No. 3 Tennessee faces UT Martin
Third-ranked Tennessee is basking in the thrill of an epic upset of then-No. 3 Alabama.
Now, the Volunteers (6-0) will get back to business when they return to the field in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday to play UT Martin (4-2), the No. 14 team in the FCS ranks.
The Skyhawks are 0-11 lifetime against Southeastern Conference programs but will make the 331-mile trek east hoping Tennessee is still caught up in its last-second, 52-49 upset of Alabama last Saturday.
However, second-year Volunteers coach Josh Heupel is working on getting his players focused on UT Martin.
"Obviously, from the outside looking in, everybody is excited about the win," Heupel said. "From the inside looking forward, we have a lot of things that we have an opportunity to get a whole lot better at, and the challenge for us is to become our best. We are in the early stages of that.
"The urgency and preparation and focus has to remain consistent, and that was the message to the players."
The hoopla following the victory included fans taking down the goalposts and depositing them into the nearby Tennessee River.
During the contest, Tennessee's Hendon Hooker passed for a career-high 385 yards and tied a personal best with five touchdown passes. Jalin Hyatt caught all five scoring passes to set a school record and tie the SEC mark while making six total catches for a career-high 207 yards.
"He has worked to become a great player this year," Heupel said of Hyatt, who has 10 touchdown catches. "Preparation meets opportunity, and you have to be ready to smash it."
The Volunteers had 567 yards against Alabama and lead the nation with an average of 551 per game. They have topped 500 in five of their six games. Tennessee also ranks second in scoring offense at 47.7 points per game.
Hooker has thrown for 1,817 yards, 15 touchdowns and one interception. He set a program record with 261 pass attempts without an interception until he tossed one against the Crimson Tide.
"Hendon is playing at an unbelievable level," Heupel said. "He's smart, tough, competitive, decisive, and he's accurate with the football -- short, medium and deep."
Tennessee clobbered UT Martin 50-0 in 2012 in the lone previous meeting between the schools.
The Skyhawks are 1-29 all-time against FBS programs, including a 30-7 loss to Boise State on Sept. 17. UT Martin's only victory over an FBS program came in 2012 when the team beat Memphis 20-17.
Skyhawks coach Jason Simpson compared playing Tennessee to the time his squad played No. 1 Mississippi State and quarterback Dak Prescott in 2014. UT Martin trailed by 35 points after three quarters and fell 45-16.
Simpson, who is in his 17th season with the Skyhawks, said there can't be extra emphasis placed on the contest. He said the preparation has to be similar to any other game.
"Play the best to their ability to give them the opportunity to have success," Simpson said of the message to his team. "... When your team gets to compete in that type of environment, there are certainly areas for your team to grow.
"It's a great opportunity, especially for our Tennessee kids and kids from the Southeast. I'm sure this is an opportunity they look forward to."
Dresser Winn has passed for 1,761 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions for an offense that is averaging 37.5 points. Zak Wallace has rushed for 552 yards and 10 scores.
Cornerback Shaun Lewis (four interceptions) and defensive end Daylan Dotson (4 1/2 sacks) lead the UT Martin defense.
--Field Level Media
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