COLUMBIA, MO – Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel had a frequent phrase during his six-minute postgame press conference on Saturday evening after the Vols’ loss to Missouri:
Heupel used the phrase five times during his press conference as he gave his immediate reactions to the Tennessee press in a small, cramped media room.
The third-year Tennessee coach continued to come back to the phrase when talking about the Vols’ performance and the response that Tennessee had when the game started to get away from them.
“Give credit to Missouri. They played well,” Heupel said on Saturday evening. “Man, really disappointed in the performance of our football team. Didn’t like the way we finished the ball game. We didn’t play smart enough, good enough early in the football game to win this one. And, you know, line of scrimmage, there was a stark difference. Said it early in the week that it would be a pivotal part of the football game. They were able to run the football. We weren’t.”
Tennessee’s offense struggled mightily against the Missouri defense as Tennessee was looking for responses throughout nearly the entire game. The Vols’ strong run game was completely wiped out by the Missouri defense as Jaylen Wright, Joe Milton, Jabari Small, and Dylan Sampson only combined for 83 yards on the ground. As Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz alluded to after the game, Missouri’s defense kicked the butt of Tennessee’s offense.
“Offensively we didn’t have the efficiency that you need to go and score points,” Heupel continued on to say. “So, disappointing.”
Tennessee averaged 33 points per game in their last four including a 59-point explosion last weekend in Knoxville. But, when push came to shove, Tennessee’s inability to execute and self-inflicted wounds led to a “disappointing” showing on Saturday afternoon.
“Disappointed in the performance offensively,” Heupel said. “Their structure was a little bit different than what we anticipated, personnel on the defense side. I didn’t think we responded, reacted well in the first drive. Reacted to it and adjusted a little bit in the first half. I’m just really disappointed.”
Tennessee had everything to play for in this game. Both the Tigers and the Vols came in with a 7-2, 3-2 SEC record while Missouri had already lost to Georgia and Tennessee had not played the Bulldogs yet. With a win against Missouri, Tennessee could have been in line for a chance to play for the SEC East against Georgia next week in Knoxville with the Georgia-Ole Miss game taking place after the Tennessee-Missouri game on Saturday. No matter what happened in the Georgia-Ole Miss game later on in the day, Tennessee had the opportunity to take care of business on its end but fell short.
“Shooting ourselves in the foot, pretty much the same time that happened in the Florida game,” Joe Milton said after the game about Tennessee’s performance. “All the self-inflicted wounds: false starts, holding, things like that that can kill a drive, and that’s what happened.”
Heupel saw the game in a similar fashion.
“Offensively you look at the first half, outside of the drive in the beginning of the second (quarter), there’s huge penalties that put you in first-and-20 or second-and-20,” Heupel said. “And multiple turnovers over on that side of the 50-yard line, too. Tough to overcome. So really disappointing.”
Disappointing for Tennessee? Yes. But the Vols still have two more games on the regular season schedule to go. Tennessee will look to correct their mistakes before hosting Georgia this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Knoxville.
Watch Josh Heupel’s full press conference on Saturday evening in Columbia by clicking the link here.