The unit’s slow growth the last few weeks continued. Bud Sasser had a bad drop, but he and Jimmie Hunt combined for 182 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line and Maty Mauk absorbed several sacks. But Mauk stayed in the pocket more often, avoiding the quick bails, and the line opened up some space for the running game. When the game was close in the fourth quarter, the offense got into gear and scored two touchdowns to put the game out of reach.


Josh Dobbs made it look easy for more than two games after entering for an injured Justin Worley. Then Missouri’s defensive line reminded everyone what a liability Tennessee’s offensive line remains. Markus Golden forced Dobbs to fumble, and WR Josh Malone saddled him with an interception, but overall Dobbs didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Missouri just lived in the backfield all game, preventing the Vols from getting much going. Pig Howard caught eight passes for 90 yards, but secondary blanketed the rest of the athletic UT pass-catchers.


Marcus Murphy nearly got free on a few kick returns. Andrew Baggett missed yet another field goal, though this attempt was long. Then he missed an extra point, which wasn’t long at all. The Tigers also gave up some decent returns, including 14 yards on a punt that netted 28 yards and gave Tennessee the ball at the Missouri 29-yard line in the first quarter to set up a field goal. The Tigers also committed at least two special teams penalties.


After Missouri fell to 4-2 with a 34-0 home loss to Georgia, including a one-point win at South Carolina that the team was fortunate to win, it seemed like this team was destined for a seven, maybe eight-win regular season.

Instead, the Tigers have won five consecutive games, four of those against SEC East teams. Tennessee entered Saturday outscoring opponents 116-78 with Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Beating a hot Vols team on the road, controlling most of the second half, was a nice accomplishment. Particularly with the way the defense shut down the UT offense most of the game with a physical, fast, suffocating effort.


We’re grading Missouri like an upper-echelon SEC team here. Otherwise this grade is an A. But the Tigers do want to be considered one of the conference’s best programs, and the team has earned that distinction.

That home loss to Indiana stings, and losing by 34 points at home to UGA is baffling, particularly with the way this team is playing now. But no matter what happens next week against Arkansas, this team went 5-1 against the SEC East for a second consecutive season. Only one SEC team can match two division losses since the start of the 2013 season: Alabama.

Missouri had to replace its NFL left tackle, long-time starting quarterback, star running back, star middle linebacker, NFL cornerback, a pair of drafted defensive ends and its top three receivers. Being in position to reach double-digit wins in the wake of that exodus is a tremendous success.