A win over Arkansas on Black Friday will send the Tigers back to the SEC Championship game on December 6th.
The Missouri defense was stifling, as the Tigers held the Tennessee offense in check. It wasn’t until after Missouri had gone ahead 29-13 late in the 4th quarter, and Missouri went to more of a prevent-type defense, that the Tennessee offense was able to score a touchdown. Their other touchdown had come on a fake field goal.
Missouri sacked Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs 6 times, and registered 12 tackles for loss, as the Tigers held the Vols to 279 yards of total offense, including just 53 yards rushing on 29 attempts (1.8 yards/carry). Dobbs managed just 195 yards through the air, and the Tigers held him to just 13 rushing yards.
It was a rough night for Missouri’s special teams, as Andrew Baggett missed a field goal attempt and a pair of PATs. And, Missouri gave up field position on Tennessee returns and penalties on Missouri’s returns.
The Missouri offense overcame poor field position and penalties to occasionally lurch forward. But in the 4th quarter, the Missouri offense found their rhythm when Maty Mauk connected with Jimmie Hunt for a 73-yard TD reception. The Tigers had begun to separate themselves from the Vols. Mauk also hooked up twice with Bud Sasser on another 4th-quarter scoring drive, including a 35-yard beauty down the left side, and a 13-yard TD reception on a fade along the left side of the end zone.
Missouri ran for 180 yards on 45 rushing attempts, and Mauk finished the night 12-25-230 yards and 2 TDs. Hunt had 3 receptions for a career-high 106 yards and 1 TD, and Sasser finished the night with 4 receptions for 76 yards and 1 TD.
“I’m very proud of our football team,” said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, following his team’s 10th straight road win. “You talk about a team that battles.”
Missouri took the opening kick-off and drove 75 yards for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. It was a well-balanced and well-executed drive. Marcus Murphy took it in from 1 yard out to cap off the 12-play drive.
Then, the Tigers forced Tennessee into a three-and-out. But, Missouri was flagged for a block in the back on the punt return, and the Tigers were backed up deep in their own end. The Vols were winning the battle for field position. The Missouri defense was being stingy, but Tennessee advanced the ball on the exchange of punts, and twice the Tennessee offense took possession of the football on Missouri’s end of the field. Although Tennessee was yet to register a first down, with 3:41 remaining in the 1st quarter, the Vols nailed a 38-yard field goal to cut into the Missouri lead.
In the 2nd quarter, Tennessee advanced the ball into Missouri territory. On fourth-and-8 from the Missouri 31-yard line, the Vols lined up to kick a yard field goal. But, the holder rose up and hit the tight end, who was streaking down the middle of the field, for a yard TD that gave Tennessee a 10-7 lead with 11:14 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
Then, Missouri answered with their own 2nd-quarter TD drive. The Tigers drove 65 yards on 9 plays, and Marcus Murphy took it in around the right side from 7 yards out. Andrew Baggett missed the PAT, and Missouri led 13-10, with 7:50 remaining in the half.
Tennessee returned the kickoff to the Missouri 40-yard line, and 10 plays later, the Vols closed out the 1st-half scoring with a 39-yard field goal that sent the teams to the locker room in a 13-13 tie.
Missouri had registered 4 sacks in the 1st half, and Mauk was 6-15-0 for 78 yards in the 1st half.
Tennessee had run the football 15 times in the 1st half for 16 yards.
The Vols opened the 2nd half with the football, and picked up a first down. But Marcus Golden hurried Dobbs on third down, and Tennessee punted.
Missouri took the football and drove the ball 66 yards on 13 plays to the Tennessee 15-yard line. But penalties backed the Tigers up, and Baggett connected on a 43-yard field goal to put Missouri ahead 16-13, midway through the 3rd quarter.
At the end of the 3rd quarter, Josh Augusta sacked Dobbs and forced a fumble that the Tennessee QB recovered. On the next play, Dobbs faked a hand-off and started around the right side. Augusta came from the inside and tackled Dobbs, forcing a fumble that Markus Golden recovered.
But the Tigers couldn’t get out of their own way, and on the first play of the 4th quarter, Baggett missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
Tennessee put together one of their better drives of the game. Aided by a pass interference penalty on David Johnson, Dobbs and the Vols picked up three first downs. Then, Dobbs threw the ball behind his receiver, who deflected the pass right to Kenya Dennis, who came up with the interception.
After yet another procedure penalty backed the Tigers up to their own 27-yard line, Mauk dropped back on third-and-8. He had time to locate Jimmie Hunt running down the left side in single coverage. Mauk made a pretty good throw, and Hunt went up and over the defender to make a very impressive catch. Then, he used his strength, and a stiff arm, to run into the end zone and complete the 73-yard TD reception. Missouri led 23-13, with 10:42 remaining in the game, and the Tigers had some breathing room, and the momentum.
Missouri forced Tennessee into a three-and-out.
The Tigers set up shop on their own 34-yard line. On first down, Mauk lofted a beautiful 35-yard pass to Sasser, who caught the ball over a defender along the left sideline. Then, Missouri ran the ball 4 straight times. On third-and-6, Mauk found Sasser singled up near the left front corner of the end zone for a 13-yard TD reception that put the Tigers ahead 29-13 with 6:22 remaining in the game.
The Tigers, who had been creeping closer and closer to the line of scrimmage, now backed off in an attempt to keep everything in front of them. Tennessee and Dobbs took what the Tigers were giving them, and marched down the field for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion, that pulled the Vols to within 29-12, with 1:52 remaining.
Tennessee recovered the on-side kick, but the ball was awarded to Missouri because it hadn’t traveled the requisite 10 yards.
From there, the Tigers ran out the clock.