A young and struggling Tennessee football team suffered their fifth loss of the season on Saturday.
While there were few shining moments for the Vols during their 31-3 loss to Missouri, all of the bad overshadowed all the good and it showed on the field.
There were a lot of times the Vols just looked lost on Saturday, and not like the team that had come on strong in mid-October at all. Costly penalties were a glaring element that shined for Tennessee, which is tied for first in the SEC as the least penalized team.
“We have to be a team that overachieves, plays disciplined football and we weren’t able to do that,” head coach Butch Jones said. “Inordinate amount of penalties which is unacceptable. We spend too much time in practice with a full officiating crew, we are talking about the discipline it takes to win football games.”
False start penalties, which are a rarity for the Vols veteran offensive line, hurt the most, one of which taking them out of scoring position.
An improving defense wasn’t off the hook for mistakes either. Two of the Tigers passing touchdowns were giving up due to, again, undisciplined play by the defense, one in which the receiver was left standing in the endzone with no one within 30 yards of him because of a coverage breakdown.
It wasn’t just the passing game that dominated the Vols, but a rushing attack that was led by Missouri’s dual-threat, freshman quarterback Maty Mauk.
“Anytime a team can rush the football against you for over 300-yards and we had less than 100-yards rushing, makes it extremely difficult (to win).”
The Vols will need to get some kind of gameplan together to combat a dual-threat quarterback as they’ll face another one in Nick Marshall when Auburn comes rolling into Knoxville on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Jones was brought in to rebuild the Tennessee football program that had seemingly been disassembled “brick by brick,” before his arrival through two coaching changes in four years. While the Vols had some success in the middle of October by knocking off South Carolina, and almost beginning the collapse of the Georgia Bulldogs, Jones feels the wear and tear of the season is finally taking a toll on his young, depth lacking team.
“I think right now we are dealing with the realities of building a football program and we are dealing with the realities of a football season,” he said. “There are natural adversities that the game and the process presents itself and that is what we are dealing with right now.”
At 4-5, 1-4 in the SEC, Tennessee remains two games shy of a bowl bid, Jones’ established goal for the season coming in, with three games remaining. This week Tennessee will host the No. 9 Auburn Tigers, who have been on a hot streak since their lone loss of the season against LSU. After that, as usual, they will finish up their season against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.