COLUMBIA, MO- For the first time since 2016, Tennessee is going bowling.
Tennessee made its fair share of mistakes on a cold night in the “Show me” state, but the Vols fought through them all to win their fourth straight game and to pick up their second ever win at Faurot Field.
Here are three takeaways.
Let’s talk about the mistakes
While Tennessee was able to pick up a 24-20 win on the road, they didn’t make it easy on themselves.
Tennessee out gained Missouri 526-280 and had 10 more first downs than the Tigers, but costly mistake after costly mistake kept Missouri in it until the very end.
Missouri blocked a pair of Tennessee field goals; the first coming on a 35-yard try from Brent Cimaglia while the second was on a 48-yard attempt early in the second half.
The second kick would have given Tennessee a 10-point lead, but instead Missouri started with great field position and tied up the game with a touchdown drive.
The kick completely shifted the momentum in the game. It looked like the Vols may have been set to distance themselves from Missouri, but instead the game was tied midway through the third quarter.
“One of them I felt like they got pressure up the middle and got their hands up,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “Brent (Cimaglia) I think kicked the second one low. The ball never got off the ground there. It was a huge part in the game where field position changed.”
Another self-inflicted wound came early in the fourth quarter. With Tennessee on the Missouri 32-yard line and set to extend its lead to two possessions, Tim Jordan fumbled giving the Tigers new life.
Additional mistakes from Tennessee included giving up a fake punt, poor clock management and committing seven penalties for 60 yards.
As costly as the mistakes were, credit Tennessee for continuing to fight and find a way to win. It would have been hard to see Tennessee winning a game, let alone a SEC road game like this after the Vols 1-4 start, but this team has rallied and continues to find ways to win.
“We dug ourselves into a ton of holes in this game,” Pruitt said. “But we found ways to win the game at the end. It’s a huge win for our players, our coaches and everyone in our program.”
Vols finish first half strong
Tennessee got the ball at its own 25-yard line trailing 10-7 with 7:38 remaining in the first half.
The Vols proceeded to put together its best drive of the night marching 75 yards in 13 plays using just over six minutes.
Tennessee went 4-for-4 on third down on the drive capped off by a third-and-five completion from Jarrett Guarantano to Jauan Jennings who made a pair of Tiger’s defenders miss before finding the endzone and giving the Vols the lead once again.
Leaving Missouri just 1:32 left in the half it looked like the Vols would go into the half with a four-point lead.
Tennessee’s defense bucked up, and despite giving up a first down, the Vols offense would get the ball back at their own 24-yard line and 38 seconds left.
With some poor clock management and a pair of impressive Josh Palmer catches, Tennessee was able to set up a short field goal.
Brent Cimaglia would drill the 27-yard field goal as time expired giving Tennessee a 17-10 lead at halftime.
The end of the half would be easy to look over due to the craziness of the second half, but Tennessee doesn’t pull out the win without the strong last five minutes of the half.
Jim Chaney earns his paycheck
It took Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee $1.5 million to pry Jim Chaney away from Georgia last offseason.
The highest paid offensive coordinator in the nation earned every cent of it, and maybe even a raise, tonight in Columbia.
If you’ve followed teams Chaney has coached you know that he likes to throw the ball all over the yard, and that’s what he did tonight.
Jarrett Guarantano played the best game of his career going 23 of 40 with 415 yards and two touchdowns.
Chaney put trust into a quarterback that seemed to have lost all of it two months ago and he was rewarded.
Chaney got Tennessee’s receivers, the strength of this team, the ball in great positions all night and they did not disappoint.
For the first time in program history, Tennessee had three receivers tally over 100 yards in one game as Jauan Jennings had 115 yards and a touchdown. Marquez Callaway had 110 yards in a touchdown and Josh Palmer hauled in six passes for 124 yards.
“We had some fun out there,” Guarantano said. “Coming into the game we knew Missouri was a top 10 defense. We knew that they had some things that we could work on, and the bye week helped us out as we were able to get a head start on them. Our receivers played really well.”
“Let me tell you they made some tough catches,” Pruitt said. “All three of them know they’ve been in a physical game. They caught balls across the middle. Think about the catches they made going across the middle. Anyone can catch it running to the sideline. Our guys made all the catches tonight.”
As successful as the Vols passing game was Chaney also did a great job of sticking to the run game.
Tennessee’s tailbacks would carry the ball just 22 times, but it was enough to keep the Tigers honest. Tennessee would have some success running the ball in the second half as the Vols totaled 111 yards on the ground.