5 Observations From UT’s 19-8 Win Over Missouri

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    Butch Jones-1

    Tennessee got its first ever win over Missouri on Saturday night with a 19-8 victory over the Tigers during the final home game for coach Gary Pinkel in Columbia. Here are five observations from the game:

    Have you Hurd?: Jalen Hurd was an absolute monster this game – running for 151 tough yards on 34 carries. He didn’t have the one back-breaking play at any point, but he was solid all night in his career-best effort. He regularly ran through contact, kept the Vols in good down-and-distance scenarios and moved the chains. He didn’t record any touchdowns on the night, but he scored a huge performance for a Tennessee team that wasn’t pretty all evening, but was effective enough in spurts to get its seventh victory on the season. Hurd’s 151 yards is 38 yards more than Missouri averaged giving up per game heading into Saturday.

    Defense steps up as predicted: Missouri’s offense is terrible. That was well documented during the week leading up to the game. But Tennessee made life even tougher on the league’s worst unit, holding the Tigers to just eight points and 223 yards of total offense. Mizzou’s early fourth-quarter touchdown, which came after the Vols stuffed the Tigers three times at the goal line, broke a shutout streak of over 125 minutes of consecutive game time for the Vols – dating back to the third quarter of the South Carolina game. Nobody is confusing South Carolina, North Texas or Missouri for being offensive juggernauts, but any unit that can put up that kind of streak against any three FBS opponents is doing something right.

    Dobbs gets it done: The passing game still wasn’t very effective with Joshua Dobbs only completing 18-of-24 passes for 89 yards. But, as he’s done many times this season, he made plays when the Vols needed them. That included a pair of third-down conversion passes on UT’s lone touchdown drive. It also meant lowering his shoulder on a third-down run from the 8-yard line near the end of the first half to break multiple tackles on his way to the end zone to put UT up 16-0. After Missouri largely shut him down the last two years, he had an effective 54 yards on the ground and made enough plays when the Vols needed him.

    Too much Medley: Aaron Medley, alone, with his four made field goals on five attempts accounted for enough points to beat Missouri on Saturday night. That was the good news. But the bad news was that the Vols saw way too much of the sophomore kicker on their six trips to the red zone. Butch Jones made no secret that the Vols need to turn more of those opportunities into touchdowns, not field goals, in the future. But against a stagnant Missouri offense, the field goals were enough to give UT the edge in this one. Credit Medley, who took a lot of heat after going 0-of-3 at Alabama this year, for bouncing back and hitting 8-of-9 overall since that time.

    Fourth-quarter struggles continue: Tennessee fans had to be despondent at some points in the fourth quarter. Tennessee thoroughly dominated the first three quarters of the game, but Missouri did just enough to make it somewhat interesting late. The Tigers got on the board early in the fourth and then put together a drive that got close to midfield after that. It never truly felt like the Vols were close to letting it slip away, but the overall downward trajectory of performance late in games that the Vols lead has been troubling this season. The Vols blew fourth-quarter leads to Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama this year in addition to a two-score first-half lead against Arkansas. South Carolina also staged a comeback that wasn’t enough a couple weeks ago. So while it hasn’t hurt in the win column in the past couple SEC games, that’s a problem Tennessee needs to address as a program over the last two games and into the offseason.

    Final stats: