KNOXVILLE -- Curt Maggitt played most of the season with two injuries.
A third one means he won't be playing for a while.
The Tennessee linebacker tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the fourth quarter of the Volunteers' quadruple-overtime loss to Missouri on Saturday.
"He's been taking it pretty well," fellow sophomore linebacker A.J. Johnson said after Monday morning's practice. "He's going to fight through it. He's going to come back and rehab real hard."
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Maggitt was playing with a nagging turf toe and a stinger that made him miss the Georgia State game. Those injuries limited his play count and his effectiveness.
His knee injury occurred as he chased Missouri quarterback James Franklin downfield on a scramble. Tennessee used him to "spy" on the dual-threat Franklin, and Maggitt played perhaps his best game of the season, finishing with five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and three hurries.
"That was a real blow [that] hurt us that last [Missouri] drive [in regulation time]," coach Derek Dooley said. "He was doing a great job of copping the quarterback the whole game, and that hurt us there on a couple of things toward the stretch. He was playing great in that game."
Maggit's sack and strip of North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon led to a safety in the opener, and he also had a sack against South Carolina. This injury is the worst of a growing list for Maggitt, who battled shoulder and calf problems during his freshman season.
Recoveries from ACL injuries typically take six months, meaning Maggitt might not be ready for spring practice.
"He's my roommate, so I saw him after the game," Johnson said. "I know everybody's spirits are going to be down after they get hurt, but his spirit wasn't too down. He talked to a couple of people who had been hurt, and he knows what he's got to do to get well."
Fifth-year senior Willie Bohannon is the most likely candidate to take Maggitt's spot at Sam linebacker, though Dooley said a decision on a replacement hasn't been made.
Safety LaDarrell McNeil (knee bruise) also did not finish the game and was replaced by fifth-year senior Rod Wilks, but Dooley said he expects the freshman to be OK.
James mum on NFL
Beyond receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson and quarterback Tyler Bray, right tackle Ja'Wuan James is another junior who may face a decision to stay at Tennessee or declare for the NFL draft.
"A lot of people talk about it and mention it and stuff like that," he said, "but right now I'm just focused on the last two games of my junior season.
"I'm not going to say nothing about it," he added with a laugh.
The 6-foot-6, 323-pound James, a four-star recruit out of high school, has started all 35 games of his Tennessee career.
Dooley said Monday that he didn't understand the "huge deal" being made of his decision to let the clock run out at the end of regulation with two timeouts left.
"I don't feel any differently," he said. "We were struggling on offense. The last four possessions, I think, we didn't execute well, and we weren't looking good. When we went out there, we were going out there to win the game. That's what our philosophy was. The first play we screw up, get the ball batted, and then the second play we screw up the execution."
"What was it, about 35 seconds [left]? We had a third-and-10. I just didn't have confidence that we were going to get it."
Dooley said he didn't want to give Missouri a chance by punting to dynamite return man Marcus Murphy, who has three return touchdowns this season.
"You put the best player on their whole team out on the field to change the game, and I didn't want to do that," he said. "I felt like we could beat them in overtime. We were at home and I felt like our offense, over the course of time, would perform better than their offense."
Until the final regulation drive when Missouri converted two fourth-and-long passes for first downs and in overtime, Tennessee's maligned defense delivered perhaps its best performance of the season.
Tennessee held the Tigers to 64 first-half yards and forced two punts after Missouri scored twice, on a 77-yard run and a nine-play drive, to open the second half before reverting to its old self.
"That one run was bad and the up tempo got us a little bit, but we still played pretty consistently," Dooley said. "We were dominating the first half. I think our second half was probably what we expected for four quarters.
"The first half probably exceeded anybody's expectations of how we could play. If we could have made just one of those fourth-down stops we would be sitting here just ranting and raving about how great the defense played, but that's how it is. You've got to do it for 60 minutes."
Dooley said his all-in approach to the defense in practice and the game-day changes that included first-year coordinator Sal Sunseri moving to the coaches' booth helped the performance, and he gave credit to the players.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.