CORY GUNKEL'S TAKE
Tennessee's win over Missouri came in the kind of cold that hurts. As my colleague Danny Parker can tell you, this was the type of weather that makes a man with an Adam's apple squeal like a 7-year-old on a tilt-a-whirl, so when Tennessee's players walked out to warm up without long sleeves on (with some even being shirtless), I didn't know whether to laugh at them or cry for them. Thankfully I did neither, because this team went out in weather best conducive for glaciers and dominated on the ground like it has done all season long to beat Missouri for the first time in program history.
The Tigers came into this game with the No. 3 rushing defense in the country, and Tennessee promptly carved them up for 248 yards for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. The passing game woes continued, but it didn't matter at all because of the beast known as Jalen Hurd. Hurd racked up a career-high 151 on 34 attempts and broke the 1,000-yard mark on the year. As concerning as Josh Dobbs' accuracy has become this season (he averaged 3.2 yards per completion), the Vols powered through it to on the ground to set up four Aaron Medley field goals to successfully put Mizzou away for good. The offense stalled in the red zone, which is concerning, but having Jashon Robertson back on the offensive line helped the Vols run all over Missouri on the road. Tennessee's second half woes continue, but Butch Jones and company really just managed the game as opposed to keeping its foot on the gas.
There's not much more you can do as an SEC defense than hold an opposing league offense to just 223 total yards and one score. Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Darrin Kirkland combined for 12 tackles and one tackle for loss to impose their will in the middle of the field and freshman phenom Kahlil McKenzie notched his first sack of his career. The D stopped Mizzou's ground attack cold, allowing just 88 rushing yards and creating two turnovers. It was one of the most impressive performances by the defense in a long time, even if it came against a corpse of an offense led by a freshman quarterback.
Aaron Medley has taken this November and atoned for a struggling October month, helping Tennessee close out the game with four field goals on five attempts. Evan Berry notched 61 return yards, a long of 41 yards, and it might actually hurt his average. Trevor Daniel did Trevor Daniel things, and it was an all-around really impressive performance by a strong special teams unit. The worst part about this game was Jack Frost's breath breathing down my neck for the seven-minute insider report. Somebody take this Mississippi boy to a beach.
Special teams: A
DANNY PARKER'S TAKE
No such thing as an ugly win.
Said it after the North Texas game and saying it again in regards to Tennessee football.
Some don't love seeing their Volunteers throw for less than 100 yards but just like the Florida game, when you're winning the line of scrimmage and runners are making plays, it's wise to keep the football on the ground.
Jalen Hurd ran hard from the first to the fourth quarter and looked rather fresh for a November game on the road and in sub-freezing temperatures. Joshua Dobbs and fellow back Alvin Kamara complimented what Hurd did and torched the Tigers for long gains.
The 4-minute, 55-second drive in the fourth quarter included three runs of 11 yards. That's the type of nail-in-the-coffin effort this offense has needed for years to put teams away.
Tennessee holding Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough to a net of 41 yards, forcing 17 completions in 30 attempts and getting the first-quarter interception from Cameron Sutton are all solid stats. The Tigers are not good offensively and John Jancek's bunch took full advantage and did so on a night where it was going to be tough sledding for the Vols offense.
The Big Orange had nine players with three or more tacklers, led again by Jalen Reeves-Maybin's seven stops. Five different Vols registered a tackle for loss.
Evan Berry nearly broke another kickoff return for a score and averaged 30.5 on two attempts. Aaron Medley's 4-of-5 performance was clutch. Yes, he missed a short 31-yarder but Butch Jones will gladly take 80-percent from his kicker. Taking a consistent look at the flight of the football off the right foot of Trevor Daniel, the Dickson kid simply has it figured out. Daniel knows how to drop it inside the 10 with backspin and knows how to spiral rockets through the air. He's a weapon.
After Lock took Mizzou on down the field to get their first score, it felt like a "here we go again" kind of moment for the Vols but the offense stayed on the field when it needed to and the defense bowed its neck late. To do that in cold weather against a team that had emotions coursing through its veins showed a lot for Team 119.
Special teams: A
JOSH WOODWARD'S TAKE
Well, it wasn't all that pretty, but it is a win. In a game that meant so much to Missouri it was good to see Tennessee show up and play. Offensively, I liked how the Vols ran the ball but the passing game still lacks and needs to improve. Jalen Hurd has had an outstanding game along with Alvin Kamara. Watching them run and gain yards when nothing is there is amazing. Really good job from both of these guys tonight.
Defensively, it was all you can ask for to hold an SEC opponent to eight points. This defense is playing so well, from the defensive line play to the outstanding linebacker play. Missouri by no means is an offensive juggernaut, but it was impressive nonetheless. The defense will do the same next week against Vanderbilt to keep this winning streak going.
Special teams did their part tonight also. Shout out to Aaron Medley, who has bounced back after his struggles last month. I thought the coverage teams did a good job and Evan Berry had one great return.