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Dobbs Gets Next Test Against Stingy Mizzou Defense

Josh Dobbs-1-4Nobody has questioned the performance that Joshua Dobbs has put forth on the field since he took over at quarterback for Tennessee on the third drive against Alabama.

The sophomore has completed 61-of-99 passes (61.6%) for 790 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions and has added 329 yards on the ground to go along with four additional touchdowns.

He’s clearly ignited the offense and was a huge catalyst in Tennessee’s comeback effort against Alabama that was followed by two wins against South Carolina and Kentucky.

The only thing to question in Dobbs’ ascension to stardom is the level of competition – and preparation – that he’s faced. Alabama is the top-ranked defense in the SEC, but the Tide didn’t fully prepare for Dobbs after Butch Jones never closed the door on Justin Worley starting that week and then actually did start Nathan Peterman and played him for two drives.

Statistically speaking, Kentucky and South Carolina, which did get the chance to prepare for Dobbs, are among the five worst defenses in the SEC. Dobbs’ next challenge will be to face a Mizzou squad that is fourth in the league in scoring defense, sixth in total defense and will have the opportunity to fully prepare for him.

“They are a complete defense, and I can read you all the statistics and the statistical information, but when you watch them on film, they are very, very well coached,” said Tennessee coach Butch Jones. “They are very gap conscientious and they don’t beat themselves. They make you earn every throw. They make you earn every yard that you get.

“When we throw the football, accuracy will be critical because they do a great job of breaking and driving. They are able to do different things coverage wise because of the talent that they have in the back end of their defense. As we all know, they are extremely disruptive up front, so it is a complete defense.”

Dobbs had mixed success against Missouri last season in what was his first career start. As a true freshman at the time, Dobbs accounted for an impressive 285 yards of total offense against the Tigers, but struggled to finish drives and threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble as the Vols fell to the top-10 Tigers 31-3 in Columbia.

Several of the key cogs in Missouri’s 2013 defense, which was among the best in the SEC, are gone, but the Tigers again feature one of the best duos of defensive ends in the nation in Shane Ray and Markus Golden, who have combined for 19.5 sacks and 29.5 TFLs on the season.

“Best tandem of defensive ends we have faced to date,” Jones said. “Shane Ray – which some individuals think will be the first overall pick in the NFL draft – and Markus Golden as well. When you look at the formula for truly winning in this conference, all juniors and seniors on the defensive side of the ball and really on their football team. So you can’t put a value amount on experience.”

And experience is something that Dobbs is starting to gain as well, as he’ll make his seventh career start and his ninth overall game appearance this weekend for the Vols. He knows he’s grown as a quarterback since that first career start in Columbia last year as well.

“Obviously, it being my first start, I remember a lot and I know things that I’ve improved on since that game,” Dobbs said. “They’re a good team. They were a good team last year, they’re a good team this year, so we’re focusing on this year’s Missouri team. We know what we have in front of us, and we’re excited for the opportunity.”

In terms of him taking that next step and playing a complete game against a talented and prepared defense, Dobbs isn’t necessarily thinking about that. He’s just thinking about win No. 6 for this team – enough for bowl eligibility.

“I know Missouri has a good defense,” he said. “I’ve faced good defenses in the past. Of course Alabama and others. I know we’re facing a good defense and I’m focusing on this week and what we have to do to win.”

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