Tigers Hand Vols Worst Loss of Heupel Era

Photo by University of Missouri Athletics (@MizzouFootball on X)

By Tucker Harlin

COLUMBIA, Mo.- No. 13 Tennessee (7-3, 3-3) fell hard against No. 14 Missouri (8-2, 4-2) 36-7 at Faurot Field Saturday.

The 29-point loss was the biggest margin of defeat dealt to a Vols team in Josh Heupel’s tenure.

“Give credit to Missouri, they played well,” said Vols head coach Josh Heupel. “I’m really disappointed in the performance of our football team.”

The Tigers started on a promising note, but Vols safety Jaylen McCollough returned a pick to the Tigers 49-yard line. The Vols went three and out and did not possess the ball again until the second quarter.

The Tigers chewed almost 11 minutes off the clock on their next drive but were unable to find the end zone. Kicker Harrison Mevis cashed in on a 31-yard field goal attempt for the first score of the game.

“We didn’t get the ball that much,” said Vols quarterback Joe Milton about the drive. “They held the ball and ran it a lot more and got yards off it, so we had to sit there and wait our turn.”

The Vols responded on the next possession.

After a holding call pushed the Vols across the wrong side of the 50, they were facing third-and-9. Milton uncorked a 46-yard pass to receiver Dont’e Thornton for a touchdown, putting the Vols up 7-3.

The Tigers matched the Vols with a touchdown of their own.

Running back Cody Schrader caught a pass for 43 yards to get the drive started. It was also Schrader who finished the drive, busting up the middle for a 7-yard rush touchdown. Schrader finished the game with 321 all-purpose yards.

“They moved us around a little bit and got us out of our gaps,” said Vols defensive back Gabe Jeudy-Lally. “When you are not fundamentally sound, the results show that.”

The teams exchanged punts, and the Vols appeared to have a scoring drive in progress.

Instead, Vols running back Jaylen Wright lost a fumble to the Tigers at the 18-yard line with seconds to go in the half.

The Tigers offense took the field with 20 seconds to go in the half, and they went to the locker room with points. 

A 35-yard Schrader took the Tigers across midfield. A couple of 9-yard gains by Schrader and receiver Mookie Cooper put the Tigers in field goal range. Mevis hit the 46-yard kick, making it 13-7 at half.

The Vols went three and out on their first possession of the second half, and the Tigers capitalized on it.

Quarterback Brady Cook found receiver Marquis Johnson for 48 yards to get the Tigers to the Vols’ 30-yard line. Five plays later, Cook faked a pitch and ran into the end zone for a score. The Tigers went for two and came up short, keeping their lead at 12.

The Vols came close to midfield on their next possession but stalled once more. 

The Tigers found their way into a goal to go situation on the ensuing drive, but they did not find the end zone. Mevis nailed a 23-yard chip shot to stretch the Tigers’ advantage to 15.

The teams traded punts, and the Tigers made their way to the end zone again. Cook connected with receiver Luther Burden for a 21-yard score, putting the score at 29-7.

Just when it looked like the situation could not get worse for the Vols, it did.

Joe Milton stared down Tigers defensive back Daylan Carnell on third down, and Carnell returned the interception for a touchdown to extend the edge to 29.

“It was just a cover four with double slants,” Milton said about the interception.

The Vols return home to take on Georgia next week in Neyland Stadium. The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will air on CBS.