KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Starting a school-record seven true freshmen, Tennessee battled to the end, but came up short, dropping a 29-21 decision to #19/20 Missouri on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.The Vols fall to 5-6 overall and 2-5 in the SEC, still seeking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. They will have a final opportunity next Saturday at Vanderbilt.
Missouri moved to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the SEC as they control their own destiny when it comes to winning the SEC East. With a win vs. Arkansas next Friday, they can clinch a return to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
The Tigers have now won 10 consecutive road games.
Quarterback Maty Mauk finished 12-of-25 for 230 yards and two touchdowns including a game-sealing 73-yard touchdown to Jimmie Hunt in the fourth quarter. Hunt had three catches for a career-high 106 yards,
Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs was 24-of-37 for 195 passing yards. He was limited to 13 rushing yards as Missouri sacked him six times.
Junior Pig Howard hauled in a game-high eight catches for 90 yards. Freshman Jalen Hurd ran for 40 yards and caught 6 passes for an additional 40 yards.
Freshman kicker Aaron Medley connected a pair of field goals from 38 and 39 yards.
The Vols’ first touchdown of the game came on a successful fake field goal in the second quarter. The second came late in the fourth quarter on a four yard touchdown pass from Dobbs toJason Croom.
Missouri broke a 13-13 halftime tie as Andrew Baggett connected on a 43-yard field goal with 7:40 left in the third quarter to make it 16-13. The lead expanded to 23-13 as Mauk connected with Hunt on that back-breaking 73-yard bomb with 10:42 left in regulation.
Four minutes later Mauk hit Bud Sasser from 13 yards away to increase the lead to 29-13 following Andrew Baggett’s second missed extra point of the game.
With 1:52 left in the game, the Vols scored their final touchdown. The Vols went for the two-point conversion and were successful as Dobbs ran it in to make it 29-21.
In an attempt to tie the game, Tennessee went for the onside kick but the ruling was that Tennessee was offsides, forcing them to re-kick. In the second attempt, Missouri recovered as a result of the ball not going 10 yards, which then finalized the Tiger win with under two minutes to play.
Tennessee took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter on a fake field goal where junior holder Patrick Ashford, who was a high school quarterback, connected with junior tight end Alex Ellis for a 31-yard touchdown. It was the first pass of Ashford’s career and first score of Ellis’ career. Both players are walk-ons.
Missouri regained the lead at 13-10 on a 7-yard rush by Marcus Murphy with 7:50 left in the second quarter. Baggett missed his first extra-point of the season (after 37 successful attempts).
The Vols tied the game on a 39-yard field goal by Medley with 3:49 left in the first half to tie the game at 13.
On defense, LaDarrell McNeil led the Vols with 11, earning a career high. Freshman Derek Barnett had eight stops including 0.5 TFLs. In his final game at Neyland Stadium, Jordan Williams earned a career-high with six tackles and had a sack.
The school-record seven true freshmen starting on offense and defense, included four on defense, also a school-record.
A crowd of 95,821 came out Neyland Stadium to give the Vols a season average of 99,753, the highest since 2010. It is also nearly an increase of 10,000 fans per game since Jones was hired in 2013. The Vols averaged 89,965, the lowest total since 1979, in 2012.
The Vols close the regular-season at Vanderbilt next Saturday, Nov. 29. That game airs on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Vol Network with a kickoff at 4 p.m.