Josh Heupel on Hendon Hooker’s injury in Tennessee Football vs. South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC — Tennessee football players prayed for Hendon Hooker amid an uncertain injury situation for the Vols quarterback Saturday.

Hooker, UT’s Heisman Trophy hopeful, went down with a leg injury without contact in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s 63-38 loss to South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“We’ll rate him when we get back,” Vols coach Josh Heupel said.

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Hooker rushed for a 1-yard loss and stayed on the field at 11:28 to play. He was playing an options game when his left leg buckled as he touched down. He went down without being touched by a defender.

Hooker walked off the field with support. He walked into the locker room, limping and walking slowly after being checked out in the injury tent on the Tennessee sideline.

“It was probably one of the worst things I’ve seen out there,” said offensive lineman Jerome Carvin. “Just to know how hard he works. Probably the hardest working guy I’ve ever played with. It’s such a shame that something like this happens to a man. If I know something, I know that he will certainly recover from it. He is a warrior. I know he will.”

The play was ruled a fumble after review as Hooker had dropped the ball as it went to the ground. South Carolina took over with the ball at the UT 17 and led 49-31. The Gamecocks scored again and took a 56-31 lead. Joe Milton started as quarterback on the following UT drive.

Hooker was 25-for-42 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Cedric Tillman caught a 3-yard touchdown pass in a four-and-goal game. Bru McCoy snagged a 7-yard score on a deflected pass. And Hooker threw a dart to Princeton Fant for a 41-yard scoring strike.

Hooker completed 69.6% of his passes for 3,153 yards and 27 touchdowns with two interceptions.

“We were all worried,” Fant said. “This is our brother. This is our quarterback. That’s someone we all believe in with this offense. He is in our prayers tonight. We pray for him.”

Milton finished the 4-for-8 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown, a 21-yard pass to Tillman. Milton would likely be the starter for the Vols against Vanderbilt in the regular season finals if Hooker is unable to play. Third-string quarterback Tayven Jackson has been unavailable for the past few weeks through injury.

Mike Wilson reports on the University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @By Mike Wilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to everything.