KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) defeated the Missouri Tigers (4-6, 2-5 SEC), 66-24, on Saturday afternoon on Senior Day in Neyland Stadium. It was another high-scoring affair that we’ve gotten used to seeing from a Josh Heupel-coached team all led by quarterback Hendon Hooker who accounted for four touchdowns. It was also another week of bad weather conditions that forced Tennessee to adjust to.
The Vols got off to a quick start on both sides of the ball, however. After the defense started with a quick three-and-out, the offense took their opening drive down the field for a touchdown on a 10-yard rush by Jabari Small. The defense responded with another three-and-out holding the Missouri offense to just twelve total yards in the first two drives. Missouri finally got on the board after a long, nine-play drive that ended with a touchdown from running back Luther Burden.
Tennessee then completed their next two drives with touchdowns in response. They were able to get quality production from Heisman candidate quarterback Hendon Hooker and his seemingly endless group of star wide receivers who showed up big today. The Vols were able to amass 365 yards of offense in the first half against a team that only allowed 304 yards per game. That allowed the boys in orange to take an 11-point lead to the half.
The second half started with some back-and-forth as the teams traded a couple of touchdowns early on. It wouldn’t last long as the quick-scoring Tennessee offense found its groove and began to pour it on scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter alone while gaining 214 yards of offense. The Tennessee defense began applying a lot of pressure to Missouri quarterback Brady Cook who struggled to find receivers the later the game went on. He finished with 217 yards and two touchdowns.
“We started calling more pressures,” said defensive back Brandon Turnage. “Really just locking up the edges and playing man-to-man.”
The fourth quarter continued to showcase the dominance of both Tennessee’s offense and defense as they took complete control down the stretch. The quick Vols offense finished with 724 total yards of offense, a program record, and put up nine touchdowns while the defense held Missouri to just 40 yards in the final quarter.
The win capped an unblemished season for Tennessee at home and made it four wins in a row over their divisional foe. It caps off a very impressive schedule that saw points and fireworks galore. With the win, head coach Josh Heupel is 12-3 (.800) in Neyland Stadium through his first two seasons with wins over rivals Florida and Alabama coming earlier this year.
For the seniors who helped lead that charge, it was their final time playing in Neyland Stadium. Coach Heupel spoke about what they mean to him and the university.
“They’re the guys that chose to stay through uncertainty. They bought in and jumped in the deep end with me. Can’t say thank you to them enough.”
Tennessee hopes the lopsided win can pay big dividends when it comes to the playoff committee. They will need some help if they hope to reach the penultimate stage of college football since they no longer control their own destiny. They have two games remaining against South Carolina and Vanderbilt, both on the road, to try and prove their worth.