With wind chill accounted for, it was a freezing cold football game in Columbia, Saturday night.
But as cold as it was, the Tigers found a way to move the ball more than they have for the past month. It wasn’t enough though, as they failed to stop the Volunteers with three minutes left in the game, letting Tennessee ultimately kneel it out. The Tigers lost their fifth straight. Missouri: 20 Tennessee: 24
“They battled, they competed, they fought, and we came up short,” said Coach Barry Odom about his team. “And I hate it, that it resulted in a loss, in the win loss column.”
For the first time in four games, Missouri found a way to get points on the board in the first quarter. On their opening drive, Kelly Bryant led the tiger offense for 57 yards, culminating in a Tucker McCann field goal that sailed through from the 30.
But throughout the game the Volunteer receivers found gaps in the defense that allowed them to go for 111 yards in the first quarter alone. They were poised to strike back with a field goal of their own, but Missouri blocked the attempt by the outstretched arm of defensive tackle, Kobie Whiteside. Still, after an 86 yard drive, the Volunteers were able to punch in a touchdown by Quavarius Crouch on a one yard rush.
Linebacker Nick Bolton gave some explanation to what the defense’s biggest weakness was in regards to covering the pass.
“They ran a lot of man on man concepts. We just didn’t win our one on ones across the board. We just gotta get better at that,” Bolton said.
The Tigers had a big chance to respond and they delivered on the opportunity. Buoyed by an explosive 33 yard pass to Jalen Knox, the Tiger offense to capped off a nine play, 75 yard drive as Kelly Bryant found Tyler Badie, giving the Tigers their first touchdown in two games.
Barrett Banister commented on the success the offense was having compared to previous weeks.
“Everyone was into it, we were battling. We just came up, what was it, four points short. There’s no moral victories. We lost. But I thought we played with a lot more energy, a lot more discipline and a lot more one-two and that was encouraging,” Bannister said.
But Tennessee responded as the Vols went on 13 play, 75 yard drive that finished with a 16 yard touchdown pass. Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw what looked like a screen to Jauan Jennings. The wide receiver proceeded to juke out the Missouri secondary turning what could have been a short gain into seven points.
It was here where Missouri fans may have gotten an all too familiar feeling. The game was slipping away, and although the Tigers showed promise to start the game, big gains by Tennessee and penalties on Missouri were starting to rack up.
Halftime Score: Missouri: 10 Tennessee: 17
A Missouri three and out to start the half might have scared fans into thinking the Tigers had reverted to their old ways. The pressure was put back on the defense to keep the score manageable. Tennessee set themselves up for a long field goal only for the Tigers to come up with their second block of the game, this time by Jordan Elliott.
The blocked kick gave Missouri great starting field position on the 45 yard line. On a standard second and nine, the Missouri offense broke out a rare trick play that worked in a big way. Kelly Bryant threw a backwards pass to Micah Wilson out wide. The receiver was able to sling it 15 yards to a uncovered Tyler Badie for a touchdown. Missouri knotted the score up at 17.
The struggles continued as they did all night long for the Tiger secondary, plagued by penalties both very real and some imagined. Regardless, Tennessee was still able to find every possible hole Missouri’s defense had. Missouri’s defenders occasionally made the Volunteer wide receivers pay for finding that gap with a car crash like hit but it wasn’t enough.
Coach Odom responded as to whether the injuries to Jarvis Ware and DeMarkus Acy hurt the secondary and gave further insight into the defense’s struggles.
“I think that (injuries) had a lot to do with it but also with some of the three deep zone stuff we did. We didn’t reroute underneath well enough. Guys had free releases and just overlapped in the zone, in the vacated area. You run coverage and there’s a number of things that go in to running the coverage. In your zone responsibility, you’ve gotta get a reroute to try to help the guy on the vertical pass game and we didn’t do that. We lost one on one battles, obviously in jump ball situations,” Odom said.
The fourth quarter went scoreless until McCann booted through a 33 yard field goal. A Tennessee and Missouri punt then left 3:33 in the game with Tennessee starting out at their own 13. Twice before midfield, this Tigers would force a third down with at least five yards to go. And twice, they surrendered a first down. In embarrassing fashion time expired as Tennessee kneeled it out.
Missouri drops its fifth straight and falls to 5-6 (2-5). The Tigers lose, Missouri: 20 Tennessee: 24