Quarterback: Maty Mauk started off rough. But he threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers and did his best James Franklin impersonation, becoming the first Tiger quarterback to run for more than 100 yards since Franklin did it against North Carolina in the 2011 Independence Bowl. Plenty good enough. GRADE: A
Running Back: It wasn't even known if Henry Josey was going to play. He had a workmanlike 74 yards on a team-high 16 carries. Russell Hansbrough has been fighting turf toe and didn't see a ton of action, but made the most of it with a 26-yard touchdown sprint. Marcus Murphy averaged 5.5 yards a carry as well as five tailbacks combined for 222 yards on 40 carries. GRADE: A
Receivers: A week after struggling mightily against South Carolina outside of one long touchdown, the Tigers' top three receivers all scored a first half touchdown. Dorial Green-Beckham got in first, followed by L'Damian Washington on a busted coverage and Marcus Lucas over the top. In the second half, Mizzou threw only five passes. The receivers also deserve credit for the running game as no big gains come without blocking on the edge. GRADE: A
Offensive Line: The Tigers had only one play for negative yardage in the first half. Mauk really wasn't pressured. Oh, and they ran for more than 300 yards. GRADE: A
Defensive Line: Mizzou shut down the Volunteer rushing game and made Tennessee a one-dimensional offense. They didn't put up incredible numbers, but managed to pressure Joshua Dobbs quite a bit. And Tennessee scored three points. GRADE: A
Linebackers: Andrew Wilson was making plays sideline to sideline and Darvin Ruise forced a fumble. The short passing game didn't hurt the Tigers much. And Tennessee scored three points. GRADE: A
Secondary: E.J. Gaines and Braylon Webb had interceptions, giving Missouri 17 on the season--or ten more than last year. The Vols passing game was decent, but never a major threat. And Tennessee scored three points. If there's a better run support corner in the country than Gaines, I haven't seen him. GRADE: A
Special Teams: Most of it was fine. The return games were a non-factor, the punts were decent other than a dropped snap by Christian Brinser. And a 29-yard field goal that banged off the upright never came close to burning Missouri in this game. But what happens when they really need to make a kick? GRADE: C-
Coaching: After as crushing a loss as a team can suffer, Gary Pinkel got his guys to respond with the most dominant effort of the season. After Missouri scored a touchdown on its third drive, the Vols were never any sort of a threat to make this a game. Last week hurt. It still does. But as Pinkel said, the loss wouldn't define this team. How they handle it would. Step one passed with flying colors. GRADE: A
***GAME AT A GLANCE***
Player of the Game: You have to give Mauk the nod on offense. He had 277 yards of offense, three touchdowns and didn't turn it over. But a guy who will get much less credit but played just as well is Kony Ealy, who had 1.5 tackles for loss, a QB hurry and forced the Tigers' first takeaway when he hit Dobbs' arm on an interception.
Play of the Game: Following the interception, Mauk rolled right and found Washington ten yards behind the Tennessee secondary for a 26-yard score. It put Mizzou up 17-0 and the game was more or less over.
It was over when...: It was over early. There was never really any point in the second half when you felt Tennessee had a chance. I guess officially when the Tigers scored to go up 31-3 in the third quarter, everybody knew it.
Reason to feel good: Missouri did not let one loss become two. The Tigers did what they have done for all but one quarter of this season and responded to adversity. With three weeks to go, Missouri knows three wins will punch a ticket to the SEC Championship game.
Cause for Concern: The announced attendance fell about 1300 short of a sellout and by the end of the game at least ten to 15,000 of those had left. This kind of a season doesn't happen all that often. There is one game left. You get four more quarters of this out-of-nowhere top ten team. Why are you giving one of them up voluntarily? Maybe night-time deer season started early.
Up Next: Missouri travels to Lexington to face Kentucky. The Wildcast are 2-and-6 and 0-and-4 in SEC play coming off a 48-14 win over Alabama State. The game will be televised at 11:00 a.m. Central time on ESPNU.
***FIVE THOUGHTS ON THE TIGERS***
Who'll be the QB?Gary Pinkel said after the game that he expected James Franklin to be very close to being ready for the Kentucky game. Pinkel has said if Franklin is healthy he's the starter. Missouri should be fine either way, but we likely won't know who will take the opening snap until just before game time.
A strange feeling This one felt like playing a bad Iowa State team in mid-November in Ames. There just wasn't really ever a moment where you felt the Tigers could lose. Tennessee is a great program. It will be back. But right now, the Vols are way, way down.
There's no I in team I have long believed that chemistry is a result of winning, not a cause of it. I still do. But much like the 2011-12 basketball team, I'm starting to think this team is way better than we expected (and way better than the sum of its parts) because the players made up their minds in the offseason that they were going to forfeit every individual honor and accolade in an effort to improve the team. So far, so good.
We don't need no stinking stars I tweeted and posted this during the game but it bears repeating. In the 2010-2013 recruiting classes, Tennessee signed 41 four- or five-star players. Missouri signed 11. The Vols have 24 of those players on their current roster. Missouri has seven. The Tigers waxed Tennessee from start to finish.
No movement in the East South Carolina won, as expected. Missouri won, as expected. Perhaps the biggest game today for the Tigers' division title hopes was Georgia's escape against Florida. The Tigers control their own fate, but a UGA win kept alive the chances that Mizzou could drop another game and still make the SEC Championship by winning a three-way tie at 6-and-2 between the teams.