Fifth-ranked Tennessee will try to rebound from a punishing setback when it squares off with Missouri in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Volunteers were No. 1 in last week’s initial College Football Playoff rankings but fell out of the top four after losing 27-13 to then-No. 3 Georgia last weekend in an outcome that was wider than the final score indicates.
Tennessee (8-1, 4-1 SEC) was sailing prior to the loss against the Bulldogs, so coach Josh Heupel doesn’t see any reason to panic.
“There’s a whole month of football left,” Heupel said Monday. “There’s a lot of ball left to be played by everybody in the country. Up until this point we have done a lot of things right. Obviously in that ballgame … we didn’t come out on the right side of the scoreboard.
“There’s nothing that we can control other than how we are, how we approach it and how we go play and compete. At the end of the day, it’s about trying to find a way to be the best team on the field during the 60 minutes. That’s all we are concerned about.”
The Volunteers had a season-low 289 yards of total offense against Georgia after topping 500 six times this season.
Tennessee also established a season low for points after scoring 40 or more in four straight games and six overall.
Heisman Trophy candidate Hendon Hooker had his worst showing with 195 yards and one interception. His school record of 20 straight games with at least one touchdown pass also ended.
“A lot of self-inflicted mistakes,” said Hooker, who has thrown for 2,533 yards, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions. “Georgia came out and played a great game. Hats off to those guys. We definitely left a lot of plays out there from not doing things that we normally do on a daily basis. It comes back to little things, paying attention to detail.”
Missouri (4-5, 2-4) lost 21-17 to Kentucky last weekend and another defeat would make it impossible for the Tigers to finish with their first winning season in Eliah Drinkwitz’s three campaigns as coach.
Still, Missouri announced a contract extension through the 2027 season for Drinkwitz, who is 15-17 with the Tigers entering the matchup with the Volunteers.
“We are heading in the right direction,” Drinkwitz said. “Have to get everybody pulling in the right direction and we got three games left, we got a lot of opportunities ahead of us, two of those at home. This team will stay together and fight.”
Missouri’s four SEC losses are by a combined 18 points. All have been by seven points or less with one of the close calls being a 26-22 loss to Georgia.
Drinkwitz was asked if the tight encounters are a sign of progress or a source of frustration.
“Both,” he said. “It’s frustrating because we haven’t found the play to win but it’s also a sign of progress in that we are in the fight and now we have to find a way to win that fight.”
Against Kentucky, the Tigers gained just 232 yards but limited the Wildcats to 252. Missouri posted a season-high five sacks.
Outside linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper leads the Tigers with 52 tackles, while safety Jaylor Carlies has 48 stops, including a team-best two interceptions.
Brady Cook has passed for 1,795 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Volunteers have won the past three meetings.
–Field Level Media