Milton, No. 19 Tennessee hope to build on momentum with a homecoming game against UConn
Thu, Nov 2, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Joe Milton III is coming off possibly his best game this season, and now the Tennessee quarterback has a chance to prove he can carry that progress into November ahead of the games that will decide the 19th-ranked Volunteers' postseason future.
Milton, who has struggled with accuracy in his career, turned in a nearly perfect passing performance in a big win at Kentucky. The sixth-year senior can tune up his game even more Saturday with a homecoming game against UConn.
"We created explosive plays on scramble drills," Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. "We hadn't done that in a long time, and maybe since we have gotten here, at that level."
Milton was 18 of 21 for 228 yards passing and a touchdown. He threw long with a 39-yard touchdown pass and a 47-yarder, ran at the right times with nine carries for 53 yards, made plays on the run and sealed the victory with a 4-minute drive ending the game to help Tennessee improve to 6-2.
"Joe was uber-efficient, great with his eyes, good fundamentally and extremely accurate with the football," Heupel said. "It was a really good performance by him."
Tennessee needs Milton to improve even more with Southeastern Conference East showdowns against No. 14 Missouri and No. 1 Georgia looming. He's getting more help from teammates like Oregon transfer Dont'e Thornton, Jr. who caught three passes for 63 yards against Kentucky.
UConn (1-7) has lost five games by 10 or fewer points, including last week's 21-14 loss at Boston College.
It's been frustrating for coach Jim Mora, who knows his Huskies have no margin for error and will be playing in Neyland Stadium before more than 100,000 people.
"We know it's going to be loud, but to be a good football player, to be a good performer in anything that you do, you need to have to be able to cut out the distractions and all that matters is what happens between those lines on that green field," Mora said. "That's what we'll have to be able to do."
As if Tennessee's secondary hadn't had enough problems, the Vols lost their top cover cornerback when Kamal Hadden hurt a shoulder in the loss to Alabama. Hadden had surgery last week. The Vols gave up 372 yards passing and two touchdowns last week in the 33-27 win over Kentucky. "We're going to need to continue to grow there," said Heupel.
Tennessee's Charles Campbell, a transfer from Indiana, was the SEC special teams Player of the Week. He connected on all four field goal tries against Kentucky, and he is 15 of 17 this season with hs only misses from 51 and 52 yards. Dating to his time at Indiana, Campbell has converted on 102 consecutive extra points. He credits this season's success to holder Jackson Ross and long snapper Matthew Salansky.
"When they put the ball on a silver platter, it's easy to kick," Campbell said.
This will be the Huskies' second game this season against a nationally ranked opponent. They lost in September to No. 18 Duke, 41-7. The Huskies have lost 11 straight games on the road to ranked teams and haven't won since 2012 at No. 19 Louisville, 23-20 in three overtimes. The Huskies are 2-6 against SEC teams. Their last win against an SEC team came in 2010 over Vanderbilt.
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