Co-written by Dalton King
Senior Joshua Dobbs — in his final game at Neyland Stadium — continued his string of impressive performances after having arguably the worst performance of his career against South Carolina. Over the last three games, Dobbs is completing 73 percent of his passes and has 13 total touchdowns. Against Missouri, Dobbs was razor sharp from the pocket, going 15-for-22 for 223 yards and three touchdowns, including a perfect downfield dime to Josh Malone.
The aerospace engineer didn’t only dominate through the air, but also set a career high in rushing yards with 190.
The duo of Alvin Kamara and John Kelly continue to dominate, leaving Vol Nation wondering what could’ve been for Team 120’s backfield throughout the season had Butch Jones opted for those two over Jalen Hurd. Speaking of Hurd, he was photographed at the game Saturday, but it ended up just being a doppelganger.
Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings deserve a boatload of credit for stabalizing an otherwise inconsistent receiving corps over the past two seasons. Against the Tigers, the two accounted for seven catches for 150 yards and all three of Dobbs’ touchdown passes. Jennings (67 yards, two touchdowns) continues to position himself to win 50/50 balls and Malone (83 yards, one touchdown) is a constant deep threat. While the rest of the unit remain inconsistent options, Jennings and Malone continue to be anchors.
While Dobbs found himself scrambling for his life on a couple occassions, the Tennessee offensive line put together another solid game. The front provided a solid push for the running game, as the Vols racked up 386 yards on the ground — their second straight game with more than 375 yards. The unit also excelled in pass protection, only giving up one sack, and giving its quarterback plenty of time to either sit back and make accurate throws or escape the pocket for a big run.
Tennessee’s defensive line is banged up, and everyone knows it. While the Tigers’ huge offensive day doesn’t fall soley on them, the defensive line wasn’t the disruptive force defensive coordinator Bob Shoop would prefer. The Vols only brought Drew Lock down for a sack once and had just three quarterback hurries as a team. And to boot, they failed to fill the gaps on the line, as much of Missouri’s runs went right up the middle. Jonathan Kongbo’s 59-yard pick six was the only real impact the defensive line made in this one, and he’s a FIFA player by trade.
For the third time in the last four SEC games, the Vols allowed 400 or more rushing yards. For the third time in four games, the middle of the Volunteer defense failed to stop or at least slow down its opponent. The Tigers reached the final level of the defense far too many times by either blowing past defenders or breaking tackes. Missouri racked up 740 total yards, the most Tennessee has ever allowed, and this unit is where the blame lies.
Unfortunately for the rest of the defense, safety Micah Abernathy and cornerback Rashaan Gaulden led the team in tackles with 12 and nine, respectively. And the freshman stepping in for Todd Kelly Jr., Nigel Warrior, wasn’t too far behind with seven in his first career start at safety. On a rough day defensively for the Vols, the secondary was a rare bright spot. Down by just one to open the second half, Missouri’s potential go-ahead drive was thwarted when Abernathy stepped in front of a pass on Mizzou’s first play for his first career interception, setting up a score by returning it all the way to the Tigers’ nine yard line.
Since the Vols couldn’t stop the Tigers’ rushing attack, at least Trevor Daniel was able to flip the field and force them to cover more ground. Daniel averaged 46.3 yards on four punts and pinned Missouri inside its 20 yard line twice. While Aaron Medley did hit a perfect 9-of-9 on extra points, he missed his lone field goal attempt of the game. The 47-yard attempt wasn’t a detrimental miss — 9:27 remained in the first half and the Vols held a 14-6 lead — but it was a missed opportunity to improve on his season-high (42 yards).
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Ben Proffitt