Missouri has lost a number of close games in 2022, including Saturday’s 21-17 defeat against Kentucky.

There’s no rest for the weary in the SEC, however, as the Tigers (4-5) now head to Tennessee this weekend.

And the Volunteers will likely be raring to go, having lost for the first time this season at Georgia on Saturday.

One reason the Tigers have been highly competitive this season has been their defense, which will need to be exceptional on Saturday against the Volunteers’ high-powered offense.

“I think there’s a lot of things,” said Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz when asked Wednesday during the SEC coaches teleconference about what has made his defense so formidable. “Obviously our defensive coordinator and staff have the guys believing and playing hard. … The addition of some really good players on the defensive line, linebacker position and safety position increased depth. … We were able to not only improve technique and scheme stuff, but also with our players.”

A year ago, however, Missouri’s defense was no match for Tennessee, as it surrendered 62 points and nearly 700 yards of total offense in a blowout loss.

“Well, it definitely happened,” said Drinkwitz when asked about the 2021 matchup. “It was something as a coach you always remember being embarrassed by that. … It’s not something we’ve discussed this year or this week, because it has no bearing on this game. They don’t get to carry any of those points over and we don’t have to carry any of our turnovers with us.”

Drinkwitz also took time Wednesday to praise his starting quarterback, Brady Cook.

“Brady’s continuing to show his toughness and leadership to our football team,” Drinkwitz said. “… His biggest issue has been consistency, making sure we’re taking care of the football and not having any self-inflicted wounds. … The thing I’m proud of with Brady is that he doesn’t flinch and he’ll give it everything he’s got.”

The Tigers and Volunteers will kick off at noon (ET) Saturday in a game that will be televised by CBS.