Now comes the football season: At Missouri

Marvin Westwestwords

So much for UConn. Happy Homecoming and the hapless Huskies have come and gone. Can you believe 59-3 and handcuffing the fourth-team quarterback to prevent another touchdown?

Visiting coach Jim Mora was supposedly unhappy. There was no congratulation for Josh Heupel, no see-you-later handshake.

“That was a very, very, very, very, very, very, very fast football team,” said Mora of the Volunteers. “They are a very, very, very, very talented offensive team at every position.”

The Associated Press provided that quote. It is being analyzed.

Hmmm, seven verys for the speed of Squirrel White and Jaylen Wright and only four for talent. I thought Joe Milton had a very good half. Cooper Mays makes a difference up front. It is now official: Nico can play. He turned a fake draw into a touchdown pass.

Defensive lineman Tyler Baron #9 had a 14-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Safety Jourdan Thomas #25 escorts him toward the end zone. (Photo by Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics)

We think the defense set a school record with three touchdowns. Research is necessary. We do know Tennessee is 7-2.

Young Vols I did not recognize participated. I had to look up their names. A good time was had by all. Well, maybe not Mora.

Only once in his illustrious career has anything like this happened (Michigan romped, 59-0, last season. We don’t know if it stole his signs). He’s been coach of two NFL teams and UCLA. Could be he expected a bit more respect. His buyouts were big.

Connecticut received $1.8 million for coming to Knoxville to help entertain the Homecoming gathering. It got to play with the football for 38 minutes and 24 seconds at Neyland Stadium, one of the great, historic, colorful arenas in the world.

The Volunteers were not particularly gracious. They outgained the Huskies by about 400 yards. The visitors got 35 on the ground. The end result really could have been worse. Heupel deployed youthful reserves most of the second half.

Much bigger and better things are waiting in line. Now comes the football season. How Tennessee 2023 will be remembered hangs on the trip to Missouri. If that is a success, one heck of an opportunity will follow. Georgia comes to town on Nov. 18.

That the Tigers hold the key to the Tennessee record is incredible. The Vols trashed Missouri 62-24 in 2021 and 66-24 last season. I promise you, that won’t happen Saturday.

Missouri is one of the most improved teams in the country, No. 12 before the hard-fought 30-21 loss to the Bulldogs.

Missouri has a rugged running back, Cody Schrader, good for 919 yards. It has a winning quarterback, Brady Cook, who has produced 2,471 yards and 16 touchdowns. It has one of the best receivers in college football, Luther Burden III, playing his way to the NFL.

I and those who bet serious money think this is a near-even game. Tennessee will have to handle the Missouri blitz and the noise. Tennessee really needs to stop throwing away so many yards on penalties. Tennessee may have to play its best game to win.

If you are a close friend or relative, it probably matters that the Vols played pretty well in their ninth game. There were some big moments. Wright broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and ran 82 yards in the first minute.

One of Heupel’s favorite plays is an inside out switch of receivers. The Vols ran it backwards. Ramel Keyton’s route was from wideout to the middle. The Huskies’ secondary got confused. Never will you see a more open target. Milton aimed carefully. Keyton actually caught the ball, 77 yards, walk-in touchdown.

Milton threw a dart to the swift Squirrel. Of course he outran the visitors, 82-yards, give him six.

Touchdowns off turnovers were fun. Cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally ripped the ball from a UConn receiver and edge defender Tyler Baron scooped up the fumble and scored from 24 yards out.

UConn opened the second half with a spread formation. Tennessee countered with unexpected pressure. Ta’Quan Roberson threw in a hurry. Safety Jaylen McCollough picked it off and returned 30 for a touchdown. All that took eight seconds.

Linebacker Aaron Beasley #6 scores off a 39-yard interception return. (Photo by Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics)

A 39-yard interception return by linebacker Aaron Beasley produced a touchdown. A nifty dive for the pylon was the winning edge. Most who marveled at the move had forgotten or never knew that Beasley was once a running back.

Quarterback Nico Iamaleava #8. (Photo by Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics)

It was 49-3 when freshman Nico Iamaleava took over the offense. He was cool and crisp, eight-play drive, 78-yards. He ran for 25. The touchdown, 19 yards, was a new wrinkle. From the shotgun, Nico started up the middle as if he would run a draw. He suddenly passed to tight end McCallan Castles.

Almost forgot a more conventional touchdown, a six-yard run by Milton off an option play. He was near enough to flawless at quarterback, 11 of 14 for 254 yards and the two big touchdowns in one half.

Totally forgot to mention the Huskies’ drive for their nice, little field goal. The Vols contributed 35 of 79 yards as punishment for violations.

Heupel comments about the victory stopped short of shocking.

“Great win, good performance, but our best is still out there.”

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmailcom


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