The Tennessee Volunteers suffered their second consecutive humbling loss to a ranked team this evening, losing to the Missouri Tigers, 31-3. The Vols flirted with points all night but could only manage a single 51-yard field goal.
Freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs finished the game 26-42 for 240 passing yards and added another 45 yards on the ground.
And that's really where the good news ends. Dobbs also threw two interceptions and fumbled once. Those kinds of things aren't entirely unexpected when it comes to freshman quarterbacks starting their first game on the road against a ranked opponent with a havoc-wreaking defensive line. What wasn't expected, though, was the lack of help Dobbs got from much of the rest of the team.
The same Tennessee team that going into this week ranked 9th and 16th respectively in penalty yards and penalties per game committed nine penalties for 65 yards. Most of that is on the vaunted offensive line, once a statuesque picture of discipline. Over and over again, drives were stalled by false starts and/or holding penalties.
Also missing was the run game, which has been getting 192 yards per game. Tonight? 94, almost half of which came from Dobbs. Tennessee's receivers also had several drops.
And let's not forget the defense, which had trouble stopping Missouri all night. This part, however, really shouldn't have been unexpected. It's difficult to think of Missouri's offense as potent as Oregon's or Alabama's, but facts are facts, and the Tigers are scoring more points per game than Alabama, and they're not far off from Oregon. So yeah, playing their offense right now is a lot like playing Alabama's or Oregon's, backup quarterback or not.
No, this game was lost because a true freshman was getting his experience, because the most experienced and lauded offensive line in the country lost its focus, and because the previously reliable run game disappeared. The first of those three things is not surprising. Consider it an investment in the future. The second two, though? Equal parts surprising and disappointing.
I said this last week, and I'll say it again this week. Losing hurts, and this one was no more fun than the others. But all preseason goals are still on the table for this team. Tonight was an opportunity to add a second big upset win against a ranked team to the big win against South Carolina. It didn't happen, but we still have the one, bowl eligibility is still only two wins against Vandy and Kentucky away, and the Class of 2014 is bouncing up and down in the tunnel. Brick by brick, y'all.