Vols tame the Tigers, earn bowl bid for first time since 2016; first time under Pruitt.
By: John Dunn
The All Vol Call in Show
The Tennessee Volunteers traveled to Columbia, MO seeking bowl eligibility for the first time in three years. With a quarterback who set a new career-best for passing yards in a game and three receivers who went for over 100 yards each, the Vols defeated the Tigers 24-20 and will play in a bowl game for the first time in Jeremy Pruitt's tenure.
Both Missouri and Tennessee began the game slowly, with the Vols' first possession resulting in a three-and-out. On their first drive of the game, the Tigers were able to split the uprights on a successful field goal after a handful of plays and take a 3-0 lead.
After regaining possession, the Vols marched down the field and found themselves in field goal range. On the attempt, the kick was blocked, leaving the Vols with nothing to show for their efforts.
The ensuing Missouri drive stalled out, allowing the Vols to take over on offense. After a few big passing plays from Jarrett Guarantano, the Vols found themselves in the red zone. After two attempts to find the checkerboard, Tennessee got their first touchdown of the night on the legs of linebacker Quavaris Crouch, giving the Vols a 7-3 lead after a successful Brent Cimaglia PAT.
Missouri began to find their rhythm on offense on their next drive, capping it off with their first touchdown in 32 attempts, snapping the nation's longest streak for possessions without a touchdown. The Tigers regained the lead at 10-7 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Each team traded possessions before the Vols were able to take back over on offense. Tennessee marched 76 yards in 6:06 and hit pay dirt on a 16 yard touchdown pass from Guarantano to Jauan Jennings, giving them a 14-10 lead with just under two minutes remaining until the half.
With Missouri receiving the opening kickoff the second half, they were desperately trying to regain the lead, or at least draw within a point, before halftime. However, the Vols were able to hold the Tigers to minimal yardage and keep them out of the end zone.
The Vols regained possession with :51 remaining before the half. After two big throws to Josh Palmer. the Vols inched closer to the end zone with :25 remaining. Guarantano hit a big hole for another big gain, giving the Vols possession inside the 10-yard line.
Cimaglia booted through his first field goal of the night, extending the Tennessee lead to 17-10 at the half. Guarantano finished the first half 13/23 for 243 yards and a touchdown.
As the Tigers opened the second half on offense, the Tennessee defense held strong, forcing Missouri into a three-and-out. The Vols began to find chunk yardage on offense, with back-to-back 15+ yard plays on their initial possession of the second half.
With an opportunity to score, Tennessee had their second field goal of the night blocked, leaving them with nothing to show for the drive. However, the Vols maintained the lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Missouri knotted the score at 17-17 on a 19-yard touchdown strike from Bryant with 8:40 remaining in the third, putting all of the pressure back on Tennessee's offense.
Each team traded possessions throughout the remainder of the third quarter with Tennessee working deep into Missouri territory after a 33-yard pass from Guarantano to Callaway. Two plays later, the duo connected on a 17-yard touchdown hookup, giving the Vols a 24-17 lead after a successful Cimaglia PAT with under :30 remaining in the third.
After holding the Tigers to minimal yardage on their opening possession of the fourth quarter, Tennessee found themselves faced with their most important drive of the game leading 24-17 with 13 minutes remaining in the game.
Without missing a beat, the Vols began to march down field behind the arm of Guarantano. After a big pass downfield to Palmer in which he was met with a big hit, the Vols were deep in Tiger territory.
On the ensuing play, Tim Jordan was met in the hole by a Missouri defender who forced a fumble that was recovered by the Tigers. After taking back over on offense, Tennessee shot themselves in the foot with a costly penalty on a late hit.
Being gifted extra yardage, the Tigers took advantage and worked down field into the red zone with under 10 minutes remaining in the game, trailing by a touchdown.
A strong defensive stand by the Vols forced Missouri to settle for a short field goal, allowing the Tigers to chip away at the lead, 24-20.
After another mistake, the Vols were faced with a long field and a short lead. Guarantano went back to one of his three major options in Callaway on a big pass, giving them a little bit of cushion on offense.
On second down down and six to go, Guarantano was sacked for a loss of 11 yards, forcing the Vols to fall short of gaining a first down. Missouri regained possession trailing by four points with under six minutes remaining.
On third down and eight yards to go, Darrell Taylor sacked Kelly Bryant for a loss of eight yards, but the Vols were off sides. On the ensuing play, with Missouri needing only three yards for a first down, stand out freshman Henry To'o To'o took Bryant down in the backfield, forcing a punt.
Tennessee regained possession deep inside their own territory with less than three and a half minutes remaining in the game, leading by four. After a short run by Jennings, the Tigers elected to burn their first timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Tennessee elected to go to the air, with Guarantano's pass falling incomplete and leaving the Vols with a long third down. However, Guarantano was able to find Jennings for a gain of 10 yards and a pivotal first down.
With 2:32 remaining Missouri burned their final timeout with the Vols facing a third down with five yards to gain a first down. On the ensuing play, Guarantano hit Jennings for a gain of 12 yards. Jennings stayed in-bounds, allowing the Vols to chew up valuable clock.
Tennessee burned the rest of the clock out behind the legs of Tim Jordan and allowed them to post a four point victory and earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016.
Guarantano's 415 yard two touchdown performance is only the eighth time in Tennessee history that a Vols' quarterback has thrown for over 400 yards. Tennessee had three receivers over 100 yards. (Jennings 115, Palmer 124, Callaway 110)