Hooker’s 4 TDs help Tennessee top No. 18 Kentucky 45-42

© Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Hendon Hooker threw a career-high four touchdown passes, including a 6-yard insurance score to Cedric Tillman early in the fourth quarter, and Tennessee held off No. 18 Kentucky 45-42 on Saturday night to halt a two-game losing streak.

The Volunteers (5-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) emerged from a bye to strike quickly in a back-and-forth game between border rivals that totaled 1,073 yards combined. They needed just three plays and 37 seconds to score their first two TDs, drove 35 yards in 16 seconds for a go-ahead field goal before halftime, and ticked off only 37 seconds on the way to another go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.

Hooker’s final TD to Tillman with 11:40 remaining proved to be the biggest as Kentucky (6-3, 4-3) got within a field goal on Will Levis‘ 24-yard touchdown toss to Izayah Cummings. The Wildcats got one last chance after Chase McGrath‘s missed field goal but couldn’t take advantage, turning the ball over on downs with 29 seconds left.

It was Tennessee’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2018, also against Kentucky.

Alontae Taylor came up with Tennessee’s biggest defensive play with 6:23 left in the third, reading Levis perfectly to jump a route for a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Volunteers their first 10-point lead. Kentucky pulled to 38-35, but Hooker answered with a 6-yard scoring pass to Tillman that provided breathing room.

Hooker completed 15 of 20 passes for a career-best 316 yards with TDs to JaVonta Payton, Velus Jones Jr., tight end Jacob Warren and Tillman. Jabari Small rushed for a 37-yard TD as Tennessee bounced back from losses to then-No. 13 Mississippi and then-No. 4 Alabama, avoiding consecutive losses to Kentucky for the first time since 1976-77.

Levis threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns for Kentucky, which stayed competitive with several long, time-consuming drives. He also ran for two scores. But the Wildcats’ defense couldn’t slow Hooker or the Volunteers’ high-speed offense, which scored on three consecutive second-half possessions to stay ahead.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky’s home loss will probably cost the Wildcats at least a few spots in the poll – and possibly their Top 25 ranking altogether.

THE TAKEAWAY

Tennessee moved the ball virtually at will against a Kentucky defense that just couldn’t keep up. Strong as Hooker was with his arm, he also contributed a couple of key runs that helped the Volunteers finish with 145 yards on the ground.

Kentucky mounted long drives that had the Vols on their heels and appeared to seize momentum with a 21-14 lead. The defense just couldn’t slow down Tennessee.

UP NEXT

Tennessee hosts top-ranked Georgia on Nov. 13.

Kentucky visits last-place Vanderbilt in its SEC finale on Nov. 13.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

Ken Ruinard/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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Corey Perrine/USA TODAY NETWORK
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.