Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee simply cannot put together four quarters of complimentary football.
Coming into Saturday’s matchup with Missouri, the Tennessee Vols were on the verge of the longest losing streak in SEC play in program history.
Tennessee entered this game with a 0-5 conference record and had lost six straight SEC games dating back to last season. It had been 353 days since their last conference win and what a coincidence it was that their last SEC victory came against the Missouri Tigers.
Not only were the Vols searching for their first conference win, but they were also searching for answers amongst themselves. Promising freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was relegated to the sidelines, making way for the other freshman quarterback Will McBride to make his first career start. Offensive linemen Brett Kendrick and Drew Richmond were out again and wide receiver Marquez Callaway never saw any game action.
And after another dismal performance the Vols are now in the midst of the the longest losing streak in conference play in program history.
The first half of the game was a mixed bag of results for the Vols. The offense showed signs of life behind McBride and he was most impressive on the ground, using his legs to lead the Vols with 25 yards on eight carries. Four of those carries resulted in a first down for Tennessee.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports Freshman quarterback Will McBride showed flashes of potential against Missouri.
McBride also showed very strong potential as a passer in the first half. There were several instances where McBride stood tall and took some hits in order to give his receivers time to get open and make plays.
There were two plays on the final drive of the first half that stood out the most when it came to McBride’s arm. The first was a perfectly thrown ball on a huge fourth-and-two in Mizzou territory that resulted in a first-down catch by receiver Brandon Johnson for a first down inside the Tigers’ five-yard line. The second came just two plays later when McBride hit tight end Ethan Wolf on a third-and-goal from the 19-yard line for a touchdown to tie the game at 17.
But just when it looked like the Vols had some momentum after they tied the game at 17, Tigers running back Larry Rountree III – in what is most likely the play of the game – ripped off a 64-yard run that led to a Missouri touchdown just a few plays later to put the Tigers back on top, 24-17.
The Vols were actually able to find some rhythm and tempo on offense, despite Missouri accumulating over twice as many yards than Tennessee. They were efficient on third down and led in time of possession.
However, Tennessee’s defense did not do the offense any favors. The Vols defense allowed over 300 yards of total offense in the first half, including over 200 yards on the ground. All 23 of the Tigers run plays resulted in positive yardage.
They were able to shut down Missouri’s star quarterback Drew Lock and the passing game. Lock was highly inefficient, throwing for under 100 yards, one touchdown, and a pick-six in the first half.
The Vols looked like they may do some damage on the opening drive of the second half after a 43-yard run by McBride, but that drive faded quickly after a sack put the Vols too far behind the chains.
And that was pretty much the end of any hope that UT could pull out the victory as Missouri would just straight-up smoke the Vols as the game went on.
Shortly after the sack, Lock found Hall again for another deep touchdown pass, this time going for 50 yards to put the Tigers up 31-17.
It was clearly a product of Tennessee trying to defend the run. Both safeties played closer to the line of the scrimmage after a series of hard runs by the Tigers, resulting in Hall being able to get behind them for the touchdown.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports Missouri wide receiver Emanuel Hall lit up Tennessee.
Things did not get any better for the Vols, either. Starting center Coleman Thomas left the game due to injury, leaving the team with just six offensive linemen for the rest of the night.
At this point, Missouri had already racked up 400 yards of offense and the writing was on the wall for Tennessee. A miracle would need to happen for UT to get out of Columbia with a victory.
And that would not happen as Missouri drove down the field yet again a couple of drives later and Lock was able to find wide receiver J’Mon Moore for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Mizzou up, 38-17.
Tennessee would falter again on the next drive after McBride threw his first interception of the game off of a deflected pass. The turnover set up Missouri in Tennessee territory and allowed the Tigers to come away with a field goal to increase the lead, 41-17.
Inadequate play and poor decision making would haunt the Vols for the rest of the game. Missouri outgained Tennessee 413-147 in total yardage, forced four turnovers, and held the Vols to zero second-half points on the way to outscoring them 33-0 after the game was tied at 17.
It got so bad at one point that the sideline crew on the SEC Network was relegated to showing shots of sideline reporter Cole Cublic taking rides on a mobile Missouri helmet to pass the time until the end of the fourth quarter.
The Missouri Massacre has all but sealed Tennessee’s fate when it comes to the rest of the season. With the amount of injuries that the Vols have sustained, it doesn’t seem possible that they will win any more games this season.
4-8 seems like the 2017 destination and would give the Vols their first eight-loss season ever in a year that every single fan cannot wait to be done with.