Tennessee’s 62-24 win over Missouri was dominant — but less than inspiring. That wasn’t the Vols’ fault. They faced a team with caged excitement like a Lawrence Welk marathon.

Look that up kids.

Things were pretty good for UT on Saturday in a rare, one-sided road win for the Vols. Imagine if the tables had been turned. Tennessee would be questioned about not bouncing back from a disappointing loss after losing to Florida, not having more energy and quitting, which is what many of Missouri’s players seemed to do. I’m sure you saw some of the lack of fire — or even a spark — that Missouri showed. Those that follow Tennessee have seen that over the course of 4 of their own coaches recently. Any team can come out flat, but it just seems to happen to UT more often since 2000.

Not on Saturday.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you thought Tennessee’s win was ho-hum. Enjoy the blowout. They don’t come as regularly as they once did.

Neither team has much to play for this seasonĀ  if you judge a program by championships, which you should. However, playing well is a sign that a team could be on the right path towards competing for titles. Maybe the Vols have shed some of their losing ways. Showing up in games that don’t draw national attention is the sign of a good program in the making.

As for Saturday, Missouri was not a good team.

Missouri was exactly what you never, ever want to be as a program ever again. Missouri had players who loafed from the beginning. Unless the Vols stopped by Kansas City and picked up some Chiefs, Tennessee didn’t get that much better that quick. Missouri didn’t care. UT’s current crew of players is just not going to control many — if any — conference foes they’ll face this year by talent alone. They need to show they can do so by performing well. They did that against the Tigers.

So what did the Vols win by kicking an opponent that was down? What should fans feel better about now that they’ve gotten one of those SEC wins that have become so elusive?

Let’s begin:


I’m sure that many of you reading this think effort should be a given. You’re right, but that doesn’t always happen. Credit the Vols for showing up ready. UT just lost a game to Florida 38-14 in the first of back-to-back road games. However, the score doesn’t tell the complete tale of that that game. The Vols were close to remaining in the game before key mistakes undermined their chances. Missouri lost to Boston College 41-34 in overtime last week and looked like they left all semblance of life back in Chestnut Hill. The Vols were simply more mature than the Tigers on Saturday.

Hooker is the man and he’s confident

There might have been some gamesmanship going on this week as UT coach Josh Heupel declined to name a starting quarterback. Joe Milton, who played in mop-up duty Saturday, was overcoming a leg injury but it seemed apparent he could have played. As most expected, Hendon Hooker got the start against Missouri. What was a little more eye-opening was the fact that Hooker looked to be in complete control from the beginning of the game as he led the Vols to 677 total yards. Hooker completed 15-of-19 passes for 225 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. He added 74 yards rushing and another TD.

Offense evolved

There seemed to be some new wrinkles in Heupel’s fast-paced offense under Hooker. That likely gave him more confidence in trying some new things. The Vols were able to better execute in their short passing game, especially in the tunnel screen. However, the running game should certainly give the Vols reason for optimism.

Most expected UT to find success on the ground against a Missouri defense that ranked last in the SEC by a wide margin in rushing defense.

Still, UT ran for 452 yards and showed some big-play ability on the ground as well. The most obvious example was Tiyon Evans’ 92-yard TD run, but 4 other Vols also had a run covering at least 25 yards.

Pressure was there

OK, I know, Missouri is bad on its offensive line, but you have to give UT’s defense credit for pressuring Missouri first then containing the Tigers to make sure they didn’t back in the game. The Vols forced Connor Bazelak into 2 interceptions, both throws coming just as he was being hit. UT won the line of scrimmage on both sides ball. That’s inspiring indeed.