• Bowl reps from the Liberty and Taxslayer are in attendance. The Liberty Bowl has been a regular attendee at Tennessee games this year. Safe to say they’ll be pushing the SEC for the Vols if they get the chance. The Philadelphia Eagles have a scout in attendance as well.
• Receiver Drae Bowles, who wasn’t sighted in the open portion of practice this week, is on the sidelines during pre-game warmups, but not in uniform. Offensive linemen Austin Sanders isn’t dressed out. We’ll have more injury updates as more Vols come out.
• Hard to put too much stock in it, but several of us in the press box agree that Joshua Dobbs is absolutely slinging it in pre-game warm-ups. He flicked a 45-yard pass with ease and has been in sync with his receivers thus far in warm-ups.
• As expected, the Vols are wearing their traditional orange-and-white uniforms.
• Brian Randolph, who is suspended for the first half, is out on the field warming up as usual.
• Mack Crowder isn’t dressed out. Running back Derrell Scott also isn’t in uniform.
• Marquez North was out earlier in the evening before the pads went on, but came out for the official warm-ups in sweats, so looks like he’s out.
• Safety Geraldo Orta isn’t dressed out, neither is tight end A.J. Branisel or running back Devrin Young.
1st quarter: 7-3 (Missouri)
The Vols won the coin toss for the first time this year against an FBS opponent and chose to defer. Missouri was glad to take the ball, moving it down the field on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a 1-yard touchdown run by Marcus Murphy. The Tigers converted three third-downs in the process, including one where Murphy slipped a Cam Sutton tackle that would’ve ended the drive potentially and made it down to the 1. The Vols didn’t get any points on the next two drives, but got the field-position edge. A perfect coffin corner punt by Matt Darr pinned the Tigers back and after they weren’t able to move the ball, they punted to Jacob Carter, who returned it to the Mizzou 30 and set up a 38-yard field goal by Aaron Medley to cut the score to 7-3 with 3:41 left in the first quarter. The Vols got another chance in Missouri’s territory, but the Tigers’ second sack of the night ended that threat and forced the Vols to punt. Missouri’s defense has been as good as advertised so far – limiting UT time and space in the backfield.
2nd quarter: 13-13
This wasn’t a particularly pleasing quarter if you are Tennessee fan, but the Vols were able to put 10 points on the board and entered the half tied with Missouri at 13 points a piece. Tennessee’s touchdown came on one of the gutsiest calls we have seen Butch Jones make in his first two seasons at Tennessee, as the Vols elected to fake a field goal from the 31 yard line. Patrick Ashford hit a streaking Alex Ellis in stride and the Vols took a 10-7 lead. Missouri would answer with a touchdown of their own, but a missed extra point would cost the Tigers a one point lead.
Tennessee’s defense looks to have settled down, but the Vols will need more production from the offense if they plan to pull in front of the Tigers in the second half. Tennessee was held to just 130 total yards in the first half, and are averaging an embarrassing 1.1 yards per rush. Josh Dobbs has been sacked four times and the Vols have shown zero rhythm on that side of the ball. I would expect Tennessee to try to get the ball out wide in the second half to players like Von Pearson and Pig Howard, but they will need to find a little more running room if they expect Dobbs to have enough time in the pocket to complete passes down the field. Players are open, but Dobbs needs time to find them.
3rd quarter: 16-13 (Missouri)
A long, bizarre drive by Missouri got the Tigers on the board first in the second half. A 13-play drive was extended twice on third downs due to UT penalties – one a rouging the passer on Derek Barnett and another a holding on UT’s secondary. Both were questionable to an extent. Tennessee couldn’t get much offense going on its first two drives of the half, failing to exceed 21 yards on either. But the strong punting from Darr continued and Missouri was forced to start its drive at the 8 with 5:22 left in the quarter. Missouri used the rest of the quarter to march the ball down the field, but faces a fourth-and-long at the conclusion of the quarter.
The Vols have really struggled to protect Dobbs and haven’t found much rhythm in the second half. Tennessee is still very much in the game, but will have to find a spark – perhaps a trick play or a deep pass – because there isn’t a lot of consistent flow to the offense right now. Missouri has just been too good up front.
4th quarter: 29-21 (Missouri) Final.
This may have been Tennessee’s worst quarter of the season when you consider what all was on the line. Tennessee gave up two long touchdown passes to Maty Mauk, who was able to exploit single coverage on each play and allow his receivers to make plays. Justin Coleman was beaten by Jimmie Hunt on the first touchdown that covered 73 yards, while Mauk targeted Bud Sasser for the final touchdown – a beautiful 13-yard fade pass against Cam Sutton. Sutton was in good position, but credit Sasser for going up to make the play.
Tennessee was able to score a touchdown with 1:52 remaining to cut the game to 10 points, and then Joshua Dobbs soared through the air to punch in the two-point conversion. Tennessee now trailed 29-21 with just under two minutes left on the clock.
That’s when things got hairy.
Tennessee elected to attempt an onside kick – simple enough, right? The kick was first touched by a Missouri player before being recovered by the Vols, but Tennessee was ruled offsides on the play and was forced to re-kick. The only problem with that…it didn’t appear that any Tennessee players were offsides. That’s a non-reviewable call, so when they reviewed the play, the ruling stood.
Tennessee also recovered the second attempt, but was flagged for illegal touching and Missouri was awarded the ball.
Missouri would ultimately run the clock out and the game would end with the Tigers on top, 29-21.
More to come on RockyTopInsider.com.