KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It was a back-and-forth affair into the third quarter, but Tennessee was unable to keep pace with a potent Missouri attack in a 50-17 loss in front of a crowd of 88,224 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“The offense did a good job coming out and getting a score to start the second half, but we just didn’t really stop them defensively,” head coa
h Jeremy Pruitt said. “We will have to go back and regroup. We have one more game to play, and it’s a game that means a lot to a lot of people around here. The only thing I can say is that Missouri out-coached us and out-played us today.”
Sophomore running back Ty Chandler rushed for a pair of scores and 82 yards on 14 carries to lead the Vols’ offense. Redshirt senior Keller Chryst came on for the injured Jarrett Guarantano at quarterback and passed for 173 yards, including a pair of 49-yard tosses to junior wide receiver Marquez Callaway.
Defensively, UT (5-6, 2-5 SEC) was led by senior defensive end Kyle Phillips, freshman cornerback Alontae Taylor and junior safety Nigel Warrior, who registered seven tackles each. Phillips had a sack as well.
Senior signal-caller Drew Lock finished the day 21 of 30 for 257 yards and two touchdowns for Missouri, which moved to 7-4 overall and 3-4 in league play. Three different Tiger running backs scored TDs, including the game’s leading rusher, Larry Rountree, who had 135 yards on 26 attempts.
MU opened the scoring on its first possession. The Tigers marched 58 yards in nine plays and salvaged a drive that stalled at the UT 17 with a 35-yard Tucker McCann field goal to go on top, 3-0, with 11:34 remaining in the first quarter.
Mizzou again found itself deep in Vols territory late in the opening stanza, knocking on the door with a first and goal at the UT 10. The Big Orange stiffened once more, however, forcing the Tigers to settle for another McCann field goal, this time from 23 yards out, to make the score 6-0 with 1:15 left in the period.
Tennessee struck back and grabbed the lead early in the second quarter with Chryst under center after Guarantano left the game. UT started at its own 31 instead of the 16, thanks to a targeting penalty assessed to Tavon Ross on his tackle of Callaway during a punt return.
Tosses of 41 yards to redshirt junior Jauan Jennings and 13 to sophomore Josh Palmer from Chryst helped the Vols move down the field in short order, and Chandler finished the six-play, 69-yard drive with a bruising carry up the middle for six yards. Brent Cimagliabooted the PAT to push the Vols into the lead, 7-6, with 10:45 to go before the half.
Mizzou wasted little time wrestling the lead right back, covering 66 yards in five plays in a span of 2:24 with running back Tyler Badie scoring from four yards out. McCann’s PAT made it 13-7 Tigers with 8:15 to go in the second.
The Vols responded with points on their next drive. With a 49-yard pass from Chryst to Callaway providing much of the real estate covered on the five-play, 61-yard drive, UT trimmed the deficit to 13-10 with 5:36 left before the half via a 21-yard Cimaglia field goal.
The back-and-forth scoring continued on Missouri’s next possession, the fifth-straight series where UT and MU scored consecutively. The Tigers went 75 yards in 13 plays, with eight-yard pass to Dominic Gicinto capping the drive. McCann’s extra point attempt was blocked by Phillips, and MU held at 19-10 lead with 1:30 remaining in the half.
A 35-yard kickoff return by freshman Bryce Thompson set the Vols up at their own 37 with 1:30 on the clock. Aided by a 33-yard rush by Chandler, Tennessee looked to be in position to answer with a score of its own. An interception and 76-yard return by Mizzou cornerback DeMarkus Acy, however, gave the Tigers an opportunity to put more points on the board.
Set up at the UT 11, Mizzou needed only three plays to tack on points. A three-yard pass from Lock to Johnathon Johnson was the capper with 15 seconds remaining. McCann added the PAT to provide the Tigers a 26-10 lead that they took into the half.
The Vols came out of the locker room and used a pair of big plays to close the scoring gap. A Madre London 41-yard return of the second-half kickoff and a 49-yard connection from Chryst to Callaway put Tennessee in business. Three plays later, Chandler hit pay dirt from two yards out for his second score of the game. Cimaglia tacked on the PAT to make it 26-17 with 12:50 left in the third frame.
Missouri quickly responded, covering 74 yards in seven plays over 2:29, with Rountree’s two-yard rush producing points for the Tigers. McCann’s PAT made it 33-17 Tigers with 10:15 remaining in the third.
On the Vols’ next series, Missouri’s defense put points on the board. Nate Anderson knocked the ball out of running back Carlin Fils-aime’s hands, and Joshuah Bledsoe was there to scoop it up and race 39 yards to the end zone. McCann’s extra point pushed the lead to 40-17.
Missouri added 10 points over the final 15 minutes for the final margin, including a 39-yard McCann field goal and two-yard run by Simi Bikare.
The Vols close out the regular season next Saturday in Nashville, taking on the Vanderbilt Commodores in a 4 p.m. ET contest. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.