COLUMBIA, Mo. — Tennessee is no longer averaging 64 points per game under Josh Heupel against Missouri.
After trouncing the Tigers 62-24 and 66-24 the past two seasons, the Volunteers couldn’t get going offensively and couldn’t keep Mizzou’s offense off the field Saturday afternoon during a humbling 36-7 setback at Faurot Field. The loss by the No. 14 Vols against the No. 16 Tigers enabled Georgia to wrap up its sixth Southeastern Conference Eastern Division championship in seven years before the Bulldogs even kicked off Saturday night against Ole Miss.
Mizzou senior running back Cody Schrader, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound former walk-on from St. Louis, continued to be one of college football’s top success stories, pounding out 35 carries for 205 yards and a touchdown, and he added five receptions for 116 yards. Schrader entered the game with 919 rushing yards this season and now has a robust 1,124.
Tigers quarterback Brady Cook complemented Schrader’s rushing by completing 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran 12 times for 55 yards and a score.
“They created seams, and Schrader was able to make us miss,” Heupel said. “He ran through some things, too.”
Tennessee faced Missouri as the SEC’s top run defense, allowing just 97.33 ground yards per game. The Tigers wound up with 530 yards overall compared to 350 by the Vols.
“They just moved around a little bit and got us out of our gaps,” Vols fifth-year senior cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally said. “We weren’t fundamentally sound, and when you’re not fundamentally sound, the result is going to show that. We’ve got to be able to do our job and play with clean eyes.
“If your eyes are in the right place, then you’ve got the ability to make the play.”
Any hopes of Tennessee (7-3, 3-3 SEC) rallying ended with the score 22-7 and 10:57 remaining, when Vols quarterback Joe Milton III brought his right arm back to pass but hit running back Dylan Sampson, which caused a fumble that Mizzou (8-2, 4-2) recovered at its 34-yard line. Milton also threw an interception that was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by Daylan Carnell with 5:50 to play.
Saturday marked the first top-16 showdown in Faurot Field history.
“Give credit to Missouri. They played well,” Heupel said. “I’m really disappointed in the performance of our football team. I didn’t like the way we finished the game, and we didn’t play smart enough or good enough early to win this one. There was a stark difference in the line of scrimmage.
“They were able to run the football and we weren’t, and we didn’t have the efficiency that you need to go and score points.”
Schrader had a 38-yard reception and two runs totaling 12 yards on Mizzou’s first three plays from scrimmage as the Tigers raced to the 25-yard line of the Vols, but Cook was intercepted by Jaylen McCollough, who had a 36-yard return to Mizzou’s 49. Tennessee’s offense quickly went three-and-out, failing to score a touchdown on its inaugural possession for just the third time all season.
The Tigers ran 24 plays to Tennessee’s three in a scoreless first quarter that also contained a 138-6 yardage advantage, but a 20-play, 72-yard Mizzou drive yielded just a 31-yard field goal by Harrison Mevis 44 seconds into the second quarter.
“We didn’t get the ball that much, and as a fast-paced offense, you want to get the ball and keep going,” Milton said. “They held the ball and ran the ball a lot more and actually got yards off of it, so we had to sit and wait our turn.”
Tennessee had its lone offensive success of the game with its second drive, moving 75 yards in six plays and taking a 7-3 lead on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Milton to Dont’e Thornton, who made a diving catch in the end zone but injured his ankle on the play and did not return.
It would be a short-lived lead for the Vols, as Cook and Schrader connected for a 43-yard gain on the ensuing play from scrimmage. Schrader raced in moments later from 7 yards out to cap a five-play, 75-yard possession that put the hosts up to stay at 10-7 at the 10:33 mark of the second quarter.
Tennessee had a wretched final minute of the half, as a potential go-ahead possession ended when Jaylen Wright fumbled at Mizzou’s 18-yard line with 20 seconds remaining. Schrader then raced 35 yards from the 18 to Tennessee’s 47, and a 9-yard run by Schrader two plays later set up a 46-yard Mevis field goal as time expired for a 13-7 halftime score.
The misery for the Vols continued at the start of the second half, when they had a 6-yard loss on their first snap before having to punt it away. Missouri, meanwhile, took its initial drive of the third quarter 80 yards in seven plays, using a 43-yard pass from Cook to a wide-open Marquis Johnson and a 3-yard touchdown run by Cook to take a 19-7 lead.
Mizzou’s second offensive possession in the second half benefited from a personal foul penalty on Vols defensive tackle Omarr Norman-Lott and ended with Mevis connecting from 23 yards to extend the lead to 22-7 at the 2:38 mark of the third quarter.
“Offensively, we just didn’t communicate in the first drive or the second drive of the second half,” Heupel said. “We had a big penalty and then a turnover, and then the game got away. At the end of the day, we’ve got to play smart football.”
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com.