By: Greg Dailey, KCOU Sports
Call them the road warriors.
Missouri traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee and gutted out a 29-21 victory to put the Tigers one win away from a second consecutive division championship.
Quarterback Maty Mauk threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes, including a 73-yard strike to Jimmie Hunt. The balanced Tiger offensive attack and relentless defense overcame a shaky special teams performance as Missouri did just enough to get a fifth conference victory.
Missouri set a school record for most consecutive road wins with 10. Markus Golden had two of the Tigers’ six sacks and anchored a Missouri defense that pressured the talented Volunteer quarterback Joshua Dobbs throughout the game. Missouri finished with 12 tackles for loss and held Tennessee to just 279 yards of total offense.
The Tigers wasted no time on the first drive of the game. They converted all three of their third downs and capped off the 12-play, 75-yard drive with a Marcus Murphy one-yard touchdown run.
Despite battling poor field position, the defense allowed only three points in the first quarter. However, Vols coach Butch Jones pulled a trick play on an unsuspecting Tigers special teams and converted a 48-yard field goal into a 31-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Ashford to Alex Ellis.
Mauk and the offense responded and put together another scoring drive, finishing with another rushing touchdown from Marcus Murphy, this one from seven yards out. Placekicker Andrew Baggett couldn’t convert the extra point and after Tennessee made a field goal on its ensuing drive, the game was tied at 13 heading into halftime.
Missouri regained the lead on its first drive of the second half, benefitting from two key Tennessee penalties. After driving down to the Volunteer 15-yard line though, the Tigers had some miscues of their own. Baggett’s 43-yard field goal gave Missouri a 16-13 lead.
Later in the third quarter, the Tigers defensive line got to Dobbs and forced fumbles. Golden was able to recover his forced fumble. Missouri couldn’t capitalize though after Baggett couldn’t connect on a 51-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Tennessee looked to take advantage and marched down to the Missouri 29. Tiger corner Kenya Dennis picked off Dobbs though and three plays later, Mauk hit Hunt for the 73-yard catch and run. After the defense once again got a stop, Mauk connected with Bud Sasser for 35 yards, and then again in the endzone for 13. However, Baggett shanked the extra point and the Volunteers still trailed by just two possessions.
Dobbs completed eight throws on his next drive and after a Tennessee touchdown and two-point conversion, the Missouri lead was only 29-21.
That set the stage for a wacky next two plays. Tennessee recovered two onside kicks, but both were negated due to penalties, and Missouri ran out the clock.
The Tigers improve to 9-2 (6-1 SEC) and close out the regular season Friday when they host against Arkansas at 1:30 p.m.