Tennessee came into Saturday with some momentum but Jeremy Pruitt’s young and inconsistent team failed to respond to some first-half misfortune and fell about in the second half, falling 50-17 to Missouri Saturday in Neyland Stadium. Ironically enough, the Vols lost to the Tigers 50-17 last season, too.
This game was altered early on during the contest when starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano left the game in the first quarter after taking a hit to the head. Interestingly enough, the hit was not flagged and Guarantano stayed in the game and played the following series but did not return after that. Keller Chryst replaced Guarantano and did not have a great performance.
Right before halftime, Chryst threw an interception as Tennessee was driving to potentially tie the game. Missouri returned the ball all the way into the other red zone, which resulted in a Drew Lock passing touchdown just before halftime. That play resulted in a major shift in momentum in the game.
Here are the highlights of Pruitt’s postgame comments:
“Have to give Missouri credit, they pretty much beat us in every phase of the game. They outcoached us, outplayed us, outhit us, out-toughed us. They executed better than we did. Forced turnovers, forced us into negative plays on defense, created explosive plays on offense. When they had the ball, did a really good job at the quarterback position, a lot of RPOs.
“When we had the ball, we had the same plays called but we didn’t do a good job of blocking them. When they had split safeties and we hand the ball off, they defeated blockers and was able to eliminate our run game. The biggest difference was third down.
“Right before the half killed us… We got some field position, had a chance to put some points on the board but we make a bad throw and they run it all the way back. So, it’s at least a 10-point swing there.”
Update on Jarrett Guarantano and how much that altered the plan on offense:
“I had not seen the docs yet but Keller takes as many reps as Jarrett. We just had some turnovers that hurt us, failed to get in the end zone once… We didn’t really change the plan with JG out.”
on Tennessee’s struggles rushing the ball:
“When they have more in there than we can block, we don’t need to be running the ball, which we did many times tonight… When you got 6 to block 7 and you hand the ball off — sometimes you can win that way, but we couldn’t.”
“They played Alabama and Georgia as well as anyone in our league… We didn’t execute well enough to win… I think the speed they played with offensively probably affected our defense, whether it was fatigue or poise.”
on Vol Walk pep talk:
“I just wanted them to see who they represent. The people that come out and support them, that’s bigger than them. We won two in a row and I wanted them to look around. It’s a huge sight to see, all these people in orange out there to watch them walk… I wanted them to see it. It didn’t work but I wanted them to see it.”
Tennessee falls to 5-6 with this loss, setting up a do-or-die bowl game against Vanderbilt next weekend in Nashville.