Missouri football: What we learned from the Tigers' blowout loss to Tennessee
We knew coming into Missouri’s game against Tennessee on Saturday that the Tigers’ run defense was terrible. We didn’t know how terrible. Tennessee barely threw the ball in the 1st quarter of its 62-24 win over Missouri before it was up 28-3.
What else did we learn from this game besides the obvious?
Penalties are drive killers
After the Vols marched right down the field on the Tigers in the first series of the game, Mizzou had a chance to tie the game, but penalties plagued it that whole first drive.
Every time the Tigers would make up for a penalty with a 1st down, they would be called back for another dumb penalty.
Penalties also helped UT on its 2nd drive when a pass interference call helped the Vols move the ball and score yet another touchdown.
Had Mizzou been able to maintain that 1st drive and score a touchdown, it might have been able to stay in this game, at least in the 1st quarter. Clearly, that was a momentum killer. Missouri wasn’t able to recover.
Missouri cannot play from behind
One thing that all of these losses have in common is that the Tigers have fallen behind early.
As good as Mizzou’s offense has been at times, the Tigers aren’t good at coming from behind. When they got behind early to the Vols, they started to press and made mistakes.
Connor Bazelak threw an interception that led to another Vols touchdown. Bazelak is a good quarterback, but when Mizzou has had to basically abandon the run and depend mainly on its young quarterback’s arm, he has yet to prove he is capable of handling the pressure.
It’s not his fault that the Tigers’ defense can’t stop anyone. But it is his fault when he makes mistakes to help the other team out.
Mizzou’s offense is not built for comebacks. It needs to jump ahead early so it won’t have to continue to rely heavily on its quarterback to carry it.
Tennessee owns Missouri
For some reason, the Vols have absolutely owned Mizzou these past few years. The Tigers had a nice series lead over the Vols until 2019. Since then, Tennessee has won 3 straight and has scored 35 or more points in the past 2 games.
It didn’t hurt that the Vols ran up the Tigers’ backs early and often, embarrassing the Mizzou defense with 229 yards on the ground in the 1st half. They ended up with more than 677 yards total, 452 on the ground.
Not to mention, the Tigers made Vols backup quarterback Hendon Hooker look like a Heisman contender. Hooker, before this game, had struggled somewhat. But he ended up throwing 3 touchdown passes. Hooker’s play Saturday may have started a quarterback controversy in Knoxville.
Tennessee running back Tiyon Evans also had himself a day, running for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns.
This was one of Mizzou’s most embarrassing losses since it joined the SEC. Coming into this game, the Tigers had a chance to right a wrong and get back on track. Now, who knows how this season will go.
The Tigers were dominated by a team that on paper, they should have at least played better against. If the Vols can put this many points up against the Mizzou defense, what will Florida and Georgia do?
Now, the Tigers have to go into a game with Texas A&M that they might have been favored in had they beaten Tennessee.
The question for Eli Drinkwitz and his team is, how do you recover from this kind of loss, and will it?
Being beaten is one thing. Being humiliated is another, and Drinkwitz is going to find out quickly what kind of team he has and who will step up in a leadership role when it faces the Aggies.
Lose next week, and all this team’s hopes and dreams of making a bowl game this season are basically dead before Halloween. That has to be a scary thought for any Missouri fan.