We’re not going to live in the past tonight.
No, we’re not going to focus on how Missouri is two plays away (South Carolina, Kentucky) away from 9-2.
We’re not going to look to the future tonight.
No, we’re not going to talk about Barry Odom’s job security or Drew Lock’s legacy or What Jim Sterk Needs To Do.
Tonight, we live in the present. In the moment. Or at least the last few hours of moments. Because tonight, Missouri football rolled into Knoxville, Tenn., laid a 50-burger on the Volunteers, with a former Tennessee coach calling the plays.
(Editor’s note: OK we’re going to live in the past and the future A LITTLE BIT but not to talk about what could have been or what will happen with Missouri football.)
Derek Dooley, the former Volunteers front-man who became a punching bag on his way out of Knoxville, led an offense that scored 50 points against Tennessee — no Iron Curtain, sure, but outside of Alabama and Florida blow-out losses, a respectable defensive team. A Derek Dooley-led team scored 50 points against an SEC opponent in Neyland Stadium for the second time. The first came on Nov. 13, 2010, against Ole Miss.
Drew Lock showed why, despite some struggles, he should be and will be a first-round NFL Draft pick, in front of a national audience, nonetheless. The last time Missouri got the mid-afternoon Saturday SEC-on-CBS slot was against Tennessee in 2016. Lock led a dynamic offense that day. He still lost by 26 points.
A lot has changed. Lock didn’t put up gaudy numbers this time (21-of-30, 257 yards, 2 TDs), but my word, he made some throws that would have Jon Gruden needing an ice bath. The steam from the water hitting Gruden’s body could solve our energy crisis.
The 24-yard pass to Emanuel Hall — the one that moved him past David Greene into second-place in SEC career passing yards? It looked like a Madden glitch. It looked like it clipped right through cornerback Alontae Taylor.
It was a rage-quit throw. It was a “Your Opponent Has Left the Match” throw.
That’s not even counting a few deep balls that would have likely been touchdowns if not for drops. Lock is ending his Missouri career with a flourish, and we get two more games to appreciate just how talented he is.
A 50-17 win over Tennessee doesn’t have to be a job-saving performance by Barry Odom (I mean, we’ve GOT to be past that, right? I know I am). It doesn’t have to be a redemptive performance by Lock — he’s been playing at this level over the last three games, fitting into the flow of the game and leading wins. It doesn’t have to be about the next crop of stars for Missouri, although we’re certainly seeing them (Tyler Badie, Dominic Gicinto, DeMarkus Acy, etc.).
It also doesn’t have to be marked with an asterisk, with a “yeah, but” addendum to talk about the state of the Volunteers’ program. For whatever they’re going through, they still have more resources and more recruiting talent than Missouri; they’ve still been able to manage impressive wins over Auburn and Kentucky. They’re still one win away from bowl eligibility; in fact, if Vanderbilt wins on Saturday night, that means ten of Missouri’s 11 FBS opponents are all at least still in the running for bowl eligibility.
This win, for once, doesn’t have to be qualified with anything.
You know what a 50-17 win over Tennessee was? It was fun. It was damn fun. It was a comprehensive, both-sides-of-the-ball, no-second-half-tension win. Missouri’s best players played to their ability, the coaching staff called a well-rounded game, and Missouri beat a potential bowl team by 33 points.
Let’s enjoy this one.
The next one should also be a lot of fun — and you should make plans to attend.