The Missouri football season has officially plummeted to Rocky Bottom.

Saturday night presented the Tigers’ fifth opportunity to achieve their sixth victory — one that would make them bowl-eligible pending the NCAA’s long-awaited appeal decision.

In a year in which so much was expected for Missouri, nothing appears meant to be now. Forty-two days have come and gone since the last time the Tigers won a game. And while Saturday’s senior night matchup against Tennessee at Faurot Field was within reach, the 24-20 loss was all too familiar.

“I hate it for my seniors,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said, dejection clear in his voice.

What was the worst-case scenario the program or its fan base expected entering the 2019 season?

Whatever it was, this current five-game losing streak is even worse.

“This entire year, adversity has hit,” Tigers senior safety Khalil Oliver said.

Once forecast to compete for a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship, Missouri has dropped a game below .500 at 5-6 on the campaign.

This marks the third time under Odom the Tigers have lost five consecutive games.

It's also the first time since 1989 that MU has lost five straight while scoring 20 points or less each game.

“It’s just hard for the senior class, those 18 guys, because the finality is here,” Odom said of their final home game. “You can talk about it all you want, but when it’s real, they can touch it, feel it. That’s a hard thing. Until you really sit in those shoes and in the locker … it’s a little more emotional than normal.”

The Tigers’ regular-season finale comes against Arkansas in Little Rock on Friday.

The game against the Razorbacks is a must-win, though that term has lost its luster for these Tigers this fall as their goals have slid down a ladder’s-worth of rungs.

“Keep swinging,” Oliver said. “There’s nothing else you can do, you know. For a lot of us, this may be the last time we suit up and put a helmet on. You don’t want to leave anything out there.”

Make no doubt about it, there were good moments Saturday. Tucker McCann’s first-quarter field goal gave the Tigers their first lead in six weeks. Kelly Bryant found Tyler Badie for a second-quarter touchdown after 33 straight possessions without one. Nick Bolton was a human wrecking ball for the MU defense, delivering massive hits and 10 tackles.

For the first time in weeks, this felt like a game Missouri could win.

If it weren’t for being so shorthanded, it maybe even would have.

Two starting seniors, cornerback DeMarkus Acy and wide receiver Johnathon Johnson, didn’t suit up due to injuries, headlining a rash of MU players sitting out, including tight end Albert Okwuegbuman and cornerback Jarvis Ware, who suffered an injury in the first quarter and never returned.

With Acy and Ware on the sideline, the Tigers were forced to turn to a pair of second-stringers in the secondary. The backup plan didn’t pan out.

Tennessee delivered a thrashing through the air, with quarterback Jarrett Guarantano completing 23 of 40 passes for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Three Vols receivers reeled in upward of 100 yards each, the first time that’s happened in their program history.

The Tigers held a 10-7 lead in the first half before Tennessee put 10 points on the scoreboard in the final 92 seconds before halftime.

Micah Wilson found Badie on a nifty trick play for a second Missouri touchdown — gasp! — in the third quarter to tie the score at 17, and after Guarantano connected with receiver Marquez Callaway to put the Vols back ahead, another McCann field goal pulled Missouri to within 24-20 with 8:13 remaining.

Missouri punted with less than four minutes left and never got the ball back.

By that point, not many of the 49,348 announced in attendance were still around to have the Tigers’ backs.

“Our backs are against the wall,” Missouri senior offensive lineman Trystan Colon-Castillo said. “It is what it is. I mean, we’ve lost, what, five in a row now? Everybody is counting us out.

“Not a lot of people showed up really for senior night, you know, a night game. There are a lot of people that have kind of given up on us. From our point of view, especially, and coach Odom’s, we’ve got to fight. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. It doesn’t matter who shows up.

“It could’ve been an empty crowd tonight, and we’re still going to fight.”

Perhaps no Missouri player better encapsulates what this season could have been versus what it has become than Bryant. The Clemson transfer was touted as a big-game quarterback who would help Missouri take its shot against the likes of Georgia and Florida.

But Bryant has endured several injury setbacks this season and very visibly isn’t playing at 100%.

“He is such a competitor and he’s just battling,” Odom said of his signal caller. “He knows how many snaps he’s got left and he wants to take every one of them. I have a lot of respect for Kelly Bryant and the things that he’s battling through.”

Bryant was forced to sit out the Georgia game, couldn’t lead the Tigers to the end zone against Florida and was limited to 14 of 23 passing for 139 yards and a touchdown Saturday night.

“It stung a little bit for all the seniors and all the other guys as well,” Bryant said after the most recent loss. “We didn’t finish out the last game here like we wanted. So it’s just something we have to get over quickly because we have a quick turnaround.”

Speculation about Odom’s job security only heightens now that the Tigers are assured of taking a step back in wins from a year ago.

Despite the noise, his players continue to give him a ringing endorsement.

“We’ve been told to keep pushing and keep going through it, and I don’t think there’s any man better than coach Odom at his job,” Oliver said.

The best way Oliver and fellow seniors can defend Odom on their way out the door is to win next Friday.

It's too late to save the season, but the Tigers can at least salvage what still remains.

“There are a lot of things that aren’t going to go your way,” Odom said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the hand of cards we’re dealt. Let’s go do something with what we have left.”