Hubris might be necessary in life, but it sure isn’t fun. Tennessee fans are feeling the sting of humility yet again. The Vols went in to Columbia, Missouri and got absolutely rolled by a resurgent Tigers teams.
After proclaiming that Tennessee was back after back-to-back 9-win seasons, Tennessee now finds itself staring two ominous futility records in the face. Tennessee has never lost eight games in a season — only Ohio State can also say that. Tennessee has also never went winless in an SEC season. With games against LSU and Vanderbilt on the horizon, Tennessee needs to win one of those two to avoid a historically bad season.
But what about tonight?
Tennessee Game Grades Missouri Edition
The only reason it’s not an F is due to the injuries. The Vols had four freshmen on the offensive line and a freshman quarterback. Tennessee only managed ten points on the night against a defense that was susceptible to far more.
And about those turnovers. At this point, it’s beyond the realm of circumstance or luck to have this many injuries. Tennessee has to figure out how to avoid injuries.
Offensive Stat of the Game: Where to start? 4 Turnovers.
The only bright spot tonight — at least for a while — was the play of first time starter freshman Will McBride. McBride led the Vols in rushing on the night, with much of that being tough yardage. Up until late in the third quarter, McBride was having a decent passing game. His touchdown pass in the face of massive Missouri pressure was a veteran-caliber play. His first interception went right off the hands of Ethan Wolf. Vols fans would like to see Wolf play that ball a little tougher and make that play. The second interception was his one rookie moment. Just a poor decision.
Running Backs: D
This is the area of most concern. The running back corps has been Tennessee’s strongest unit all season long. Tonight, not so much. John Kelly and company couldn’t muster much of anything. Even when they did, as with Carlin Fils-Aime‘s 25-yard run in the 4th quarter, they ended in disaster with a fumble. And John Kelly had a costly personal foul, again, inside the five yard. That’s the second time this season he’s done that.
Look, I love John Kelly as much as anyone. But he can’t do that. Did it against Florida. Cost himself a game against U.K. Now makes it 2&G from 19.
— Mike (@MikeL_LWOS) November 12, 2017
Kelly has to be better than that. Tennessee got away with it tonight. Still, Kelly, Chandler, and Fils-aime were held quiet tonight.
Receivers only had four the team’s 16 receptions on the evening. A lot of this was a by-product of a patchwork offensive line and the limited playbook for the freshman quarterback. Tight end Ethan Wolf did have a touchdown pass, but that was more of a product of McBride’s great play. He let McBride’s first interception go right off of his hands. The receivers continue to void of difference-makers.
Offensive Line: F
Missouri had six sacks and six tackles-for-loss. Freshmen or not, an SEC offensive line must be better than that. And that’s with Larry Scott‘s play calling to get McBride out of the pocket. Tennessee still hasn’t had a game this season without a few bad snaps. Missouri’s defensive line just owned the line of scrimmage and played much, much more physical than Tennessee’s offensive line.
Tennessee gave up 740 yards of offensive to Missouri last season. This season? Only 659 yards. An improvement, presumably.
Defensive Stat of the Game: 659 Total Yards or 50 Points?
Defensive Line: F
No pressure to speak of. Poor tackling. No energy. No gap coverage. Missouri’s 64-yard run setting up a touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half was the key play of the game. It should have been an easy stop for the defensive front. It wasn’t. It’s been that way all season long.
Systemically, the linebackers were put in a tough spot playing mostly a two-backer system, modified nickel package almost all night. Still, Colton Jumper, Daniel Bituli, Elliot Berry, and Q’uarte Sapp have to do better than they did tonight. This unit had as many missed tackles as any of the other units. Missouri’s offensive weapons put too much pressure on an out-matched Vols linebacker corps.
Defensive Backs: F
Justin Martin had about as bad of a game as you could have. The defensive backs also struggled from poor tackling. And if it wasn’t for seven Missouri drops, the Tigers might have had 800 yards of total offense. Nigel Warrior’s 70-yard interception return in the first quarter was the defense’s only highlight of the evening.
Just not enough words for the poor defensive performance tonight.
Special Teams: C
Trevor Daniel and Aaron Medley did their jobs. But the return teams didn’t look too interested in blocking tonight. With the offense and defense struggling so much, special teams was an afterthought in this game.
Tennessee just wasn’t ready to play tonight. That’s on the coaches.
The offensive game plan was extremely limited. And while they did get in rhythm in a few points, they went away from their successful plays. Or, curiously, the wasted some “go-to” plays on first down situations rather than third down.
On defense, there just were no answers for Missouri’s weapons. And the abysmal tackling performance was nothing short of shameful.
A Top 25 LSU team rolls into Knoxville next weekend. You’ve got to think that the Tigers’ physicality will be a bad match-up against another depleted Tennessee team.
The Vols’ best chance to avoid a historically bad season comes two weekends from now with Vanderbilt coming to town.
With Tennessee facing a historically poor performance and being humbled weekly, things might look significantly different by the time we get to that game.
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