Home College Tigers Down Volunteers 29-21 to Maintain Hold of SEC East

Tigers Down Volunteers 29-21 to Maintain Hold of SEC East


(Photo Credit: Ryan Leopando – Arch City Sports)

95,000 hostile fans. 13 penalties for 99 yards. Two missed extra points. Normally these factors lead to a loss, but for the Missouri Tigers, this wasn’t the case. The Tigers overcame the loud crowd, the penalties, and the inconsistent kicking game to pull out the 29-21 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers in Neyland stadium to move to 9-2 on the season. With the win the Tigers keep hold of their spot atop the SEC East with a conference record of 6-1 and find themselves just one win away from a return trip to Atlanta.

Maty Mauk and the Missouri offense picked up right where they left off following last weeks win on the road in College Station with a touchdown on their opening drive. Mauk led the Tigers on a 12 play, 80-yard drive, which was capped off by a Marcus Murphy one-yard run to put Missouri up 7-0 early.

The Volunteers kept the Tiger offense in check on their next three drives, limiting Missouri to just 13-yards on nine plays. Tennessee added a 38-yard field goal from Aaron Medley to trim the deficit to 7-3 midway through the first quarter. The field goal started what would be an exceptional first half for the Volunteers special teams unit.

On fourth down Tennessee set up for a field goal try when Volunteers head coach Butch Jones opted for some trickery. Tennessee faked the field goal as Patrick Ashford hit Alex Ellis perfectly in stride for a 31-yard connection and score giving the Volunteers their first lead of the game at 10-7.

However the lead was short lived as the Tigers came back on the ensuing drive with a score of their own. With Missouri set up inside the Tennessee 10-yard line, Murphy stepped up once more rushing around the outside and into the end zone for a touchdown putting the Tigers back on top 13-10. Andrew Baggett botched the first of his two missed extra points, which nearly cost Missouri later in the game.

The Volunteers added a 39-yard field goal to tie the game back up 13-13 heading into half time. Through the first half the Tigers registered six penalties amounting to 35 yards, but continued to perform admirably on the defensive side of the ball. Shane Ray and the defense tallied four sacks on Joshua Dobbs and held Dobbs to negative two yards rushing.

Coming out of the break Tennessee gifted Missouri with two big penalties on third downs that extended the Tigers drive. Baggett capitalized on the miscues by connecting on a 43-yard field goal to extend Missouri’s lead by three 16-13. The field goal marks the longest field goal of the season for Baggett since the season opener against South Dakota State when he connected on a 44-yard attempt.

Later in the quarter the Tiger defense was at it again as sophomore linemen Josh Augusta hit Dobbs forcing him to fumble, which was then recovered by Marcus Golden. Though Missouri was unable to capitalize as Baggett came up short on a 51-yard attempt.

On Tennessee’s next drive Dobbs tossed a pass intended for Pig Howard, but was picked off by defensive back Kenya Dennis. This time Missouri made the most of the turnover as Mauk hit Jimmie Hunt on a 73-yard connection to extend the Tiger lead to 23-13. The play marks the longest play from scrimmage for the Tigers this year.

After a Volunteer three and out Mauk stayed hot as he found Bud Sasser for a 13-yard score stretching the Tiger’s advantage to 29-13. Tennessee came back with a 15-play drive that ended with Dobbs hitting Jason Croom on a back shoulder catch to bring the Volunteers within striking distance. After Dobbs flipped over the defense for the two-point conversion the Volunteers were only down eight with the score standing at 29-21.

Then the fun began. On the first onside kick attempt Tennessee recovered, but were flagged for off sides. On the second onside kick attempt Tennessee recovered, but were flagged for illegal touching. Butch Jones then challenged the ruling on the field, which was upheld giving the ball to Missouri. With only one timeout the Volunteers found themselves without any options left and the Tigers came away with the 29-21 victory.

It was a story of sloppy play on many occasions for the Tigers, but nonetheless they came away with the victory to keep hold of the top spot in the SEC East. 13 penalties for 99 yards and the two missed extra points are issues that can easily be avoided. Penalties cost the Tigers against Indiana late and if they had pulled that game out they might find themselves inside the top 10 rather than the top 20.

The defense stayed strong per the usual. Ray added to his sack total as the Tigers got to Dobbs a total of five times on the evening. Dobbs had been sacked just three times in the past three games combined. The Missouri defense also held Dobbs to a mere 13 yards rushing on 17 attempts. Dobbs had games of 48 yards, 166 yards, and 75 yards respectively in his previous three games against Kentucky, South Carolina, and Alabama.

Mauk finished the day passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns as he continues to show signs of confidence in his wide receiver group. His mobility inside and outside of the pocket has improved and he’s shown great strides in his decision-making and game management since the abysmal performance against Georgia.

Additionally the improved balanced run attack of Murphy and Russell Hansbrough has given the Tigers the opportunity to mix up the offensive playbook. Murphy ran for 82 yards and a pair of scores, while Hansbrough added a respectable 63 yards on the ground as well. With the exception of Baggett’s inconsistent play this looked like the first game where the defense and offense both performed well. They also did so on the road in a hostile environment, which is a pleasant sign for the Tiger faithful. Back to back wins in two of the largest stadiums in the country have helped the Tigers improve to 5-0 on the road as they sit in good shape with one game left to play.

The Tigers are next in action at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks (6-5) on Friday, Nov. 28 with kickoff scheduled for 1:30 p.m. CT. That game will be televised on CBS.

For more Missouri Tiger updates follow @NickYahl on Twitter



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