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Victorious, Vanquished: UT 63 - Mizzou 37

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The offense hummed while the defense struggled, but the story of the day was the East being decided

NCAA Football: Missouri at Tennessee
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Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

4th and goal at the 1. 3 seconds left. Fans everywhere waited with bated breath, either to watch the next play or to hit refresh on their phone.

No, this wasn’t UT-Mizzou, it was LSU-Florida. And for the 2nd year in a row, the Vols fell one play short of an Atlanta rematch with Alabama.

While the fans lamented an outcome that we could not control, a football game happened in Neyland Stadium. It looked a lot like last week in that an efficient offense made a lot of plays and a struggling defense did just enough to allow the Vols to emerge victorious.

Tennessee got the ball first, but had to punt after a first down. When the defense took the field...they were physically present. And that’s about all you could say as Missouri converted several third downs, went quick, and scooted into the end zone on a Damarea Crockett run for a 6-0 run (they missed the XP).

Things looked grim when Marquill Osborne slipped down at the 2 returning the ensuing kick, but a nice read run from Dobbs on 3rd down and a throw to Malone got the Vols out to midfield. Under a heavy rush, Dobbs heaved a prayer to Jauan Jennings, but Jauan answers prayers. 7-6, good guys.

In the midst of empty drives each way, news came in that Florida had won. Did the team know? Probably. The fans certainly did, but they kept a reasonable spirit about them as Missouri rushed right back down the field into scoring position. With a tenuous kicking situation, though, they felt compelled to go for it on 4th and 17. That didn’t work.

The Vols got into the end zone again with...the passing game? A nice throw and toe-tapping catch by Malone got the Vols near midfield again, and then a double move had Malone wide open behind the defense. Dobbs hit him, and the lead was 14-6.

Missouri got right back into scoring position, but an attempt to hand it to a defensive lineman on 4th and inches ended in a fumble. The Vols failed to extend the lead, though, when Medley missed a long field goal. If you thought the defense would stand up, you were wrong. Run, run, run, touchdown, Missouri.

The Vols were in danger of going 3 and out and giving it right back when Dobbs ran backwards, spun out of a tackle, and picked his way for a big first down. That was crucial to allowing the Vols to get more points when Kamara scampered in from 6 yards out. Missouri came right back and scored again to make it 21-20 at the half.

Missouri got the ball to start the 2nd half, and under a bit of pressure, Lock threw an interception that Abernathy returned inside the 10. On 3rd and goal, Dobbs found a wide open Jennings to extend the lead to 28-20.

When Barnett got a sack on Missouri’s next drive (his 31st, one behind Reggie White), it looked like UT might finally get a stop! Wrong. A draw on 3rd and 20 got a 1st down, and after a long pass, Missouri ran it in again. 28-27.

The Vols blinked on their next drive. Missouri blinked back, getting stopped on 4th down. Dobbs made them pay after a 4th down Missouri penalty extended the following drive, running from 30 yards out to push the lead back to 8. Mizzou came right back down the field, but a missed throw on 3rd down forced a FG attempt which the Tigers converted.

With the game still very much in the balance, on Senior Day, Dobbs made another huge play. On 3rd and 1, Dobbs pulled the read, broke to the left, juked a defender, and outraced everyone to the end zone for a 42-30 lead.

When the defense forced a 3 and out on the Tigers’ next possession, the opportunity was there to finally put it away. Kamara got them close and then went over the top for a 49-30 advantage. There were some more entertaining moments down the stretch, ending with a Kongbo pick six to push the final margin to 63-37.

The final offensive stats on this game were mind-numbing. Tennessee was no slouch, averaging 9.1 yards per play on their way to 609 total. Dobbs was on fire through the air (15/22 for 223 yards, 10.1 YPA, 3 touchdowns) and the ground (10 carries for 190 yards and 2 touchdowns). But Missouri...they ran 110 plays, had 420 on the ground, and 643 total. Tennessee’s defense has been, frankly, abysmal the last two weeks.

So, winning is good. But the East escaped us yet again. There’s still football to be played, but how will we ultimately remember 2016?

I’m not sure, but I hope we’ll remember Dobbs and the other seniors for helping bring Tennessee out of the depths. There will be no banners hanging up in Neyland for them, but they played a role in helping the team get “back,” wherever that may be.

Go Vols.