BATON ROUGE, La. -- - Hendon Hooker passed for two touchdowns, Jabari Small ran for 127 yards and two scores, and No. 8 Tennessee punished No. 25 LSU for its mistakes and risk-taking in a resounding 40-13 victory over the Tigers on Saturday.
A morning kickoff lured LSU fans to Tigers Stadium considerably earlier than usual - and many were gone by the end of the third quarter, when Tennessee led 37-7.
The Volunteers (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) matched their best start to a season since 2016 with balance on offense, sound defense that corralled dual-threat LSU QB Jayden Daniels, and opportunistic special teams play.
Hooker passed for 239 yards, with scoring passes of 45 and 14 yards to Jalin Hyatt. The fleet-footed QB also accounted for 56 of Tennessee's 264 yards on the ground. Bru McCoy caught seven passes for 140 yards, drawing howls of "Bruuuuuuu!" from a sizeable contingent of fans in Volunteer orange.
Those fans' repeated singing of "Good ol' Rocky Top" echoed throughout LSU's Death Valley by game's end.
Tennessee sacked Daniels five times with defensive lineman Byron Young accounting for half of that total.
LSU's combination of early special teams failures and costly fourth-down risks helped Tennessee build an early double-digit lead.
Minutes later, the Vols' offense was back on the LSU 26 after Dee Williams' 58-yard punt return.
LSU (4-2, 2-1) held Tennessee to Chase McGrath's 35-yard field goal, but missed a chance to trim its deficit when coach Brian Kelly kept the offense on the field on fourth and 4 from the UT 14. A quick pass to Kayshon Boutte near the right sideline came up inches short.
Leading 13-0, Tennessee thwarted LSU on fourth and 1 near midfield, stopping Josh Williams' run. On the next play, Hooker's deep throw down the right sideline hit Hyatt in stride to make it 20-0.
The Tigers responded with a 96-yard touchdown drive to pull to 20-7 on Williams' 1-yard run. And momentum briefly appeared to be turning when McGrath's 50-yard field goal attempt hit the post and LSU quickly drove across midfield in the final minute of the half.
But when LSU stalled at the UT 45, Kelly kept the offense on the field on fourth-and-10 and Daniels was sacked by Young.
Hooker's 32-yard pass to McCoy to set up a short McGrath kick that made it 23-7 at the half.
Tennessee: Playing without left tackle Gerald Mincey and star receiver Cedric Tillman might have hampered the Vols offense on several threatening drives the ended with field goal attempts. But Tennessee's ability to nonetheless win on the road while scoring more than 30 points for the fifth time this season further validated its top 10 ranking.
LSU: While Kelly had credited his team's heart in comeback victories earlier this season, the coach warned that sloppy play early and multi-score, first-half deficits probably would be too much to overcome against a top-10 team like Tennessee. Kelly was right - and two of the Tigers' next three games are against highly ranked Mississippi and Alabama.
Tennessee: Hosts Alabama on Oct. 15.
LSU: Travels to Florida on Oct. 15.