The ninth-ranked Missouri Tigers bounced back Saturday with a 31-3 drubbing of the Tennessee Volunteers, who lost their second lopsided SEC road contest.
The Vols were able to flip field position early on by stifling the Missouri offense but could not get into scoring range, despite three early possessions that entered Tigers territory.
Then, Maty Mauk and Missouri's offense got going with a 14-play, 63-yard drive capped off by a nine-yard touchdown to Dorial Green-Beckham, who simply outran the Volunteer defense across the middle to put Mizzou up, 7-0, late in the first.
Midway through the second, Missouri went 73 yards to set up an easy field goal and picked off Vols true freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs one play later. Immediately following that momentum swing, Mauk nailed a wide-open L'Damian Washington on a busted coverage from Tennessee's secondary.
Tennessee saw a glimpse into its future with Dobbs starting his first career game, but he struggled to complete drives early on. He made a couple of big plays with his feet with a 33-yard scamper but looked for too much on a run late in the half and fumbled away a drive that had UT in field-goal range.
That costly turnover came at a time when the Vols desperately needed a score going into half, and Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown captured one slight mishap in his courageous play:
The Tigers led, 24-3, at the half with Mauk stealing the show. He had three touchdowns before halftime, and torched the Vols for a couple of big runs while scrambling out of the pocket at will.
As 247Sports' Wes Rucker noted, the ground success was a new thing for Mauk:
The second half brought more of the same, as Mauk quickly surpassed 100 yards on the ground midway through the third quarter. One 26-yard touchdown scamper for Tigers running back Russell Hansbrough later and Missouri held a 31-3 lead.
By that score, the game was simply out of hand, and it spurred a sassy tweet from Fox Sports' Clay Travis, who recollected on Tennessee's big win two weeks prior:
Whether it was Mauk or Russell or Henry Josey, the Tigers ran all over the Volunteers, especially once they held a big lead in the second half.
Dobbs engineered a couple of promising drives in the second half, but threw his second interception deep in Tiger territory and had another lengthy drive stall on downs.
The Vols' offensive line shot a couple of those drives in the foot, causing enough false-start and holding penalties to inspire this quip from David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:
Entering the fourth, this contest looked more like a glorified practice as the Vols looked to build offensive momentum under Dobbs. and the Tigers miked the clock down to an easy victory.
From start to finish, the Tigers looked like they were ready to take care of business after a gut-wrenching loss to South Carolina a week ago. Tennessee was no match.
Missouri QB Maty Mauk: A-
Mauk may not have his job for much longer with an impending James Franklin return, but he's surely going out in style.
The freshman totaled three passing touchdowns—all in the first half—going 12-of-25 through the air for 163 yards. It was his ground efficiency that really opened up the game, running for over 100 yards for the first time in his career.
Mauk's quick wheels often allowed him to extend plays but never before had his quickness allowed him to gash a defense like he did on Saturday night.
Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs: B-
The freshman made a lot of freshman mistakes in his starting debut, but he displayed plenty of promise in the tough loss.
Dobbs went 26-of-42 through the air for 240 yards and two costly interceptions but added nearly 50 yards on the ground. Sheer nerves along with some pressure forced a handful of errant throws.
The Vols don't have a lot to be happy about stemming from this lopsided loss, but despite the lackluster scoring performance, fans can be excited about Dobbs' future.
Missouri RB Henry Josey: B+
It was no secret early on in the game that the Tigers were going to rely on their rushing attack, and Henry Josey was the biggest reason why.
The junior running back carried the ball 16 times for 74 yards on the night, consistently moving along Missouri drives. It kept the Volunteer defense off guard and susceptible to big plays by Mauk, either through the air or with his feet.
It was Russell who busted out the touchdown run, but Josey earned a lion's share of the carries and made a huge difference in the game as Missouri pulled away.
Reeling off two straight losses, the Vols face another tough test as No. 8 Auburn rolls into town for Tennessee's homecoming.
Meanwhile, Missouri improves to 8-1 with a trip to Kentucky looming. Should they get past the Wildcats, the Tigers face a bye week before finishing the season with Ole Miss and 12th-ranked Texas A&M.