5 Observations: Missouri 50, Tennessee 17

    by -

    Tennessee got embarrassed by two of the top teams in the country earlier this season. Georgia shut out the Vols 41-0 for Tennessee’s worst loss in Neyland Stadium history, and Alabama held the Vols to just over 100 yards of offense in a 45-7 beat down.

    But Saturday saw the Vols sink to an even deeper low point on the season.

    The Vols gave up over half a hundred points in a 50-17 loss to Missouri on Saturday. And this wasn’t to a Missouri team that was atop the SEC East like in Butch Jones’ first couple years at Tennessee. This was a 4-5 Missouri team that had just one SEC victory in five conference games prior to their match-up with the Vols.

    If not for a Nigel Warrior pick-six in the first half, this game would look much worse than it did already. Tennessee had three-straight possessions end turnovers in the second half, and Missouri scored on all three of their ensuing possessions. The game was tied at 17 at one point before the Tigers blew it open.

    Here are our five biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s massive loss to Missouri.

    Why Pass When You Can Run?

    Tennessee’s run defense has been bad all season, and it started when they allowed 535 yards on the ground to Georgia Tech in the first game of the season.

    Missouri seemed intent on matching that total on Saturday.

    The Tigers came into this game as the most potent passing attack in the SEC, but they relied on their rushing attack to pile on the yards and points in this one. Missouri totaled a whopping 433 yards on the ground, and they had two players run for more than 150 yards apiece. Ish Witter had 216 yards and Larry Rountree III amassed 155 yards. Both averaged over eight yards per carry.

    Tennessee got just two tackles for loss in this game. Missouri torched them on the ground time after time.

    Except They Can Pass Too

    Missouri ran it down Tennessee’s throat, but they also found plenty of yards through the air as well.

    Drew Lock came in to tonight’s game just 205 yards shy of 3,000 on the season. He got that and more as he totaled 217 yards and four touchdowns on 13-of-28 passing. He did have an interception returned for a touchdown, but he also had six or seven dropped passes by his receivers.

    Despite all those drops and the interception, Missouri’s passing game was still plenty effective.

    Will McBride Shows Flashes

    True freshman Will McBride made his first career start at quarterback for the Vols tonight as he filled in for Jarrett Guarantano. And he showed some flashes before his offensive line wore down in the second half.

    McBride finished 16-of-32 for 139 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He also ripped off a 43-yard run and led Tennessee with 63 rushing yards on 14 carries. He helped score Tennessee’s only offensive touchdown of the night. He was also sacked five times.

    McBride certainly made his fair share of mistakes, but he also had some good plays against a bad Missouri defense. If he has to play in the final two games for Tennessee, there’s stuff to build off of there.

    Fresh Meat

    McBride wasn’t the only freshman who played for Tennessee. At one point, the Vols had seven true or redshirt freshman on the field on offense.

    Wide receivers Jordan Murphy and Josh Palmer played, running back Ty Chandler played, and offensive linemen Trey Smith, Riley Locklear, and Devante Brooks played in the game.

    One of the reasons Tennessee’s offense has struggled this season has been because of injuries and young players having to play. And that happened again tonight.

    Rock Bottom?

    With the loss to Missouri, Tennessee now has a losing streak to every single team in the SEC. The Vols haven’t won a conference game since they beat Missouri last season, and this was the third time this season Tennessee has been blown out in an SEC game.

    The only way this gets worse is if the Vols make history and go winless in conference play and lose eight games for the first time in school history.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.