WHAT HAPPENED: Tennessee shut out Missouri for three quarters in a 19-8 win in front of 59,575 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.
The Vols improved to 7-4 overall, 4-3 in the SEC. Missouri fell to 5-6, 1-6.
Tennessee had four drives stall in the Missouri red zone in the first half, but they got field goals from kicker Aaron Medley on three of those four to take a 9-0 lead. The Vols finally punched one through with 17 seconds left in the first half when junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs dodged two tacklers and dragged two more with him into the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown run.
The Vols added another field goal with 5:13 to go in the third quarter. Missouri scored its only touchdown with 9:49 to go in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Drew Lock, but that was all the scoring the Tigers did.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Sophomore tailback Jalen Hurd rushed for 151 yards on 34 carries, cracking the 1,000-yard marker for the season. Though the Vols only had one touchdown, he kept most of the field goal drives moving, taking on tacklers and running through them.
Dobbs rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown. He only threw for 89 yards, but he picked up several key third downs.
Alvin Kamara rushed for 43 yards on seven carries and caught four passes for 23 yards.
Junior Cameron Sutton had a key interception that set up a field goal. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin had seven tackles including one for loss. Defensive end Corey Vereen and defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie each had sacks.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Tennessee went into the game knowing there wouldn’t be many points scored. Missouri is exceptional defensively, but doesn’t have much going offensively, so the Vols expected the game to move slowly, but they also knew that they were safe with a two-score lead. They were conservative, but it was effective in this case.
Tennessee only threw for 89 yards, but the Vols rushed for 248 yards, 80 more than any other team has run for against Missouri this season. Against a daunting defensive front, the Vols did not allow a sack. That allowed them to control the ball, keep field position on their side, and get three points even on the occasions when they couldn’t get seven.
Defensively, the Vols knew they didn’t have much margin for error, so they didn’t make many. They gave up a few big passing plays in the second half, including a 44-yard pass from Lock to wide receiver Drew Lock and a 21-yard pass to Cam Hilton that put Missouri on the 1-yard line. However, the Vols gave up just 223 total yards, including just 88 on the ground, dominating up front and on the perimeter.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Vols had reason to be concerned about this game with Missouri boasting a top five scoring defense and having the intangibles on their side with Gary Pinkel coaching his last game.
None of those things appeared to make a difference on Saturday. The elements were not nearly as stacked against the Vols as expected and there wasn’t much of a daunting atmosphere, but regardless, the game played out the way most Missouri games played out, and Tennessee beat Missouri at their game. The Vols beat Missouri for the first time since the series began in 2012 when the Tigers joined the conference.
The win gives the Vols seven wins in the regular season for the first time since 2009. If they beat Vanderbilt, they will win eight for the first time since 2007. Next week’s game with the Commodores has a chance to be much like this one, because Vandy’s defense is equally stout and its offense is equally inept, so this gives them a blueprint for win No. 8.