Riley Blevins' thoughts
Joshua Dobbs showed flashes.
Brief, yet honest flashes.
But with the freshman making his first career start and the defense facing a daunting test against a dangerous Missouri offense, Tennessee knew it had to play perfect.
Not even close.
Not on offense. Not on defense. Nowhere.
There were drops, penalties, turnovers and missed assignments. It was a forgettable brisk evening at Memorial Stadium as handfuls of Missouri fans trickled to the exits in the third quarter. The game was already won.
It was hard to find a bright spot.
Sure, Dobbs added a splash with his legs, rushing for a team-high 45 yards. But he fumbled on a promising drive before halftime.
Yes, Dobbs was fairly accurate through the air, dinking and diming Missouri for 240 yards. But he tossed two costly interceptions.
However, the rest of the offense didn't help the rookie.
Receivers played poorly. Josh Smith highlighted a contest filled with drops, letting what looked to be a touchdown zip through his hands in the second quarter.
To top it all off, the Vols were flagged for six false starts.
And the dismal play was apparently contagious.
Tennessee's passing defense flashed back to its Sal Sunseri days, allowing Mauk to find wide open receivers on touchdown throws of 40 and 26 yards.
The run defense was equally as bad. The Vols were handing out yards like they were Halloween candy. The Tigers diced the Vols for 344 rushing yards.
Simply put, the defense couldn't get off the field.
Missouri was 10-of-19 on third downs.
For the second Saturday in a row, special teams was Tennessee's lone bright spot. Michael Palardy continued to add to his NFL resume, drilling a 51-yarder and twice pinning Missouri down inside the 10.
Defense — F
Offense — D -
Special teams — A
Danny Parker's thoughts
At least Tennessee fans now know that Tino Thomas' uniform fits and Riyahd Jones won't be redshirted as both played special teams against Missouri. Aside from that, it was almost the same story, different verse as the humiliating loss to Alabama.
The Volunteers have now been outscored 59-3 their last two first halves combined. Coach Butch Jones talks continually about creating your own momentum but his team isn't listening, which is beyond sad for a roster with so many experienced seniors in the two-deep.
It's tough to get an accurate assessment of how quarterback Joshua Dobbs played in his first start as he got little to no help from the men around him. His offensive front continually left the unit off schedule and dropped passes continue to haunt them (Jones wanted to strangle Josh Smith after dropping a likely touchdown).
Hard to figure out where to start with the Tennessee defense, which was again torched — as predicted. Missouri had five ball carriers average 4.6 yards per carry or better. If this stat won't slap you in the face then nothing will: Maty Mauk ran for 117 yards on 13 attempts. Entering Saturday, Mauk had ran it 24 times for a net of 22 yards. Maybe put Jalen Reeves-Maybin in the game and tell him to go wherever No. 7 goes and plant his rear end when he's out of the pocket? Michael Palardy and Devrin Young didn't have the best games of their careers but both were bright spots for the Orange & White, including the kicker nailing a 51-yarder for the lone score and downing four punts inside the Mizzou 20.
Defense — F
Offense — D-
Special teams — B
Randy Moore's thoughts
When you start a true freshman at quarterback teammates are supposed to step up their games to make his job easier. Apparently, Tennessee's players never got the message because Joshua Dobbs was on his own Saturday against Missouri.
The Vol offensive line got whipped for four quarters and, making matters worse, committed a bunch of drive-killing false-start and holding penalties.
The ground game is supposed to take pressure off a young quarterback but that didn't happen, either. Dobbs led the Vols with 7 rushes for 45 yards … equaling the combined output of running backs Marlin Lane (6 carries, 37 yards) and Rajion Neal (8 carries, 8 yards).
The receivers are supposed to make some tough catches to help out a young quarterback. Tennessee's receivers didn't even make all of the easy catches. One drop by Josh Smith cost the Vols a touchdown that would've trimmed the score to 17-7 just shy of halftime and maybe … just maybe … changed the complexion of the game.
Tennessee's defense didn't do its part, either. The Vols limited Missouri's lanky receivers to 12 catches and 163 yards but couldn't stop the run. The Tigers gashed Tennessee's defense for 339 rushing yards en route to 502 total yards.
Given all of the above, winning the game fell on the shoulders of Dobbs. That was asking too much. He wound up completing 26 of 42 passes for 240 yards but lost two interceptions and a fumble. You'd expect that kind of uneven performance from a freshman making his first college start. You'd also expect more help from his teammates. The only Vols who answered the call were wideout Pig Howard (11 catches for 89 yards), linebacker A.J. Johnson (a boat-load of tackles) and kicker Michael Palardy (42.7-yard punting average, 51-yard field goal).
Apparently, the rest of the Vols thought this was an open-date weekend.
Defense — D
Offense — F
Special teams — B
Offensively Joshua Dobbs showed some flashes, but the offensive penalties killed drives. I expected turnovers from Dobbs since it was his first start. This is by far the worst performance I have seen from the Tennessee offensive line. They got blown up for most of the game and had zero intensity all night. The receivers continue to have key momentum drops which left points off the board tonight.
Defensively this was the worst performance of the year. The defensive line got zero push and secondary was exposed by the Missouri wide receivers. The nickel position is hurting the Vols a ton right now and Brian Randolph is not healthy at all. Maty Mauk deserved a spy after his first half runs. Just all around a bad performance for the defense.
Michael Palardy scored the only points for the Vols in Missouri, Devrin Young looked good on returns. Teams was the best unit on the field for the Big Orange today.
Defense — F
Offense — D
Special teams — B