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NCAAF News: No. 15 Tennessee focused on Akron with SEC on horizon

No. 15 Tennessee will play its third nonconference game Saturday, hosting Akron at Knoxville, Tenn., before the Vols turn their attention to SEC play.

The Vols (2-0) overcame two lost fumbles and a blocked punt last Saturday in emerging with a 34-27 overtime victory at then-No. 17 Pittsburgh.

Although they opened as a 50-point favorite over Akron (1-1), Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said he is not looking past Saturday’s tilt in favor of the Volunteers’ Sept. 24 SEC opener against No. 18 Florida.

“The challenge every week is really us,” Heupel said. “Our preparation has to be consistent, your process of how you approach and get to game day is what takes you to game day to play your best football. If you ever deviate from that plan and change it, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker followed a 221-yard, two-touchdown performance in Tennessee’s 59-10 season-opening romp of Ball State with 325 yards and two scores against Pitt. Hooker’s latter effort earned him SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Cedric Tillman highlighted his nine-catch, 162-yard performance vs. the Panthers by reeling in a 28-yard touchdown pass in overtime.

“I think it is great that we came out on top, and we experienced some of those things during the course of the game that can help us as we go through this season,” Heupel said. “That’s individually for Hendon, it’s for any of our wideouts, it’s for us as an offensive unit, our entire football team continuing to compete and find a way to make a play at the end.

“There were a bunch of plays that Hendon made once he got into a better rhythm and into the flow of the football game.”

Tennessee’s Byron Young received SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors after contributing four tackles and a sack last week.

While the Volunteers are upbeat, the Zips are less so after being drubbed 52-0 by then-No. 14 Michigan State. Akron surrendered nearly 500 yards of total offense and lost four fumbles in the lopsided loss.

“Can’t turn it over once against a team like this, let alone four times and expect to win,” Zips coach Joe Moorhead said. “You can’t put your defense in adverse situations like that. Two or three of the turnovers resulted in scores for the other team.”

Akron’s Jeff Undercuffler Jr. likely will get the nod at quarterback after he came on in relief of fellow DJ Irons, who was carted to the locker room with a lower-body injury.

“I think you saw some of the adjustments we need to make relative to Jeff,” Moorhead said. “He’s not a dual-threat guy like DJ but he’s a big guy (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), strong arm, who was a little anxious (on Saturday). … We have to build a game plan around what he does well and minimize his weaknesses.”

Undercuffler transferred to Akron after spending four seasons with Albany, where he threw for 6,340 yards and 59 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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