Offense gets a D, defense gets an F: Our grades from Mizzou's loss to Tennessee

Chris Kwiecinski
Columbia Daily Tribune

That was difficult from nearly start to finish.

Between the defense's failures and the offense's sputtering, there wasn't much to like as the Volunteers blew out Missouri at Faurot Field.

Yet there was still a unit from the Tigers on Saturday that earned an "A" for its performance.

Here are our grades from Missouri's lopsided 62-24 loss to Tennessee:

Missouri offense

Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) flips the ball to wide receiver Chance Luper (18) during the first half of the Tigers' game against Tennessee on Saturday at Faurot Field.

A unit that had seemed like it was turning the corner became anemic Saturday.

A week after scoring 34 points on Boston College, the offense mustered only 17 against Tennessee, with special teams responsible for one of the Tigers' three touchdowns.

Missouri struggled to run block, churning out just 2.5 yards per carry on 30 rushes. The Tigers ran for 74 yards on the day.

This past week, coach Eli Drinkwitz noted the offense's goal is to stick in rhythm in order to keep moving positively and, ultimately, reach the end zone. 

More:'I didn't do my job today': What Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz said after losing to Tennessee

"Our job is to score points," Drinkwitz said Tuesday. "The name of the game is points."

Missouri's rhythm was consistently upended Saturday. The team committed nine penalties for 97 yards.

Three of the flags came on the second Missouri drive, when the Tigers were called for a trio of holding infractions, putting the offense into second- and third-and-long situations. The third time was one too many to overcome, and Missouri settled for a field goal.

Tyler Badie scored his usual touchdown in the game, while D'ionte "Boo" Smith scored on a running play. The Tigers did have a 99-yard touchdown drive, and did showcase variations on plays that found ways to move the ball vertically.

Quarterback Connor Bazelak recognized when his receivers were single-covered and wasn't afraid to rip the ball to these receivers. He was also consistently discerning the soft spot in Tennessee's zone defense, where he could get an easy seven to 10 yards.

That led to a 322-yard passing day from Bazelak.

Grade: D

Mizzou defense

Tennessee running back Jabari Small (2) runs the ball against Missouri on Saturday at Faurot Field.

At least last weekend, you could tell Missouri was trying to adjust. Steve Wilks blitzed more, got pressure on Boston College's Dennis Grosel and tried to create more penetration at the point of attack.

It didn't seem like any of those kinds of adjustments were present against Tennessee. The coaching staff switched to a 3-3-5 look in the nickel defense, to try and throw Tennessee off guard. It also substituted more speed on the field. But it didn't work — Tiyon Evans ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter alone.

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UT is a fast team that runs many, many plays. But even Tennessee Tech's defense held the Vols to 202 rushing yards. That number seems paltry to the 458 rushing yards Missouri allowed Saturday.

It was almost merciless of Tennessee to keep piling on points and yards, but why would the Volunteers voluntarily go backward?

Tennessee kept running the ball. Missouri had no inkling of a way to stop it.

UT threw just eight passes to 33 runs in the second half, and just kept gaining and gaining yards. It really seemed like there was nothing Missouri could do.

The Tigers forced a turnover on downs on a goal-line stand, which Drinkwitz said was an example of how the Tigers never gave up. However, it's hardly a comforting consolation prize when the defense allowed 683 total yards.

Grade: F

Missouri special teams

Missouri place kicker Harrison Mevis (92) kicks a field goal during the first half against Tennessee on Saturday at Faurot Field.

Believe it or not, there was a Missouri unit that deserved some praise Saturday.

The Tigers' special teams were responsible for 10 of Missouri's 24 points. This includes Harrison Mevis' 43-yard field goal.

Mevis has proved to be automatic and dependable, something Missouri was in short supply of Saturday. Mevis also nailed consistent touchbacks on kickoffs, taking a way any chance for a return touchdown.

Going forward, it's comforting knowing the kicker position is solidified. But settling for three when the opponent is scoring seven isn't a recipe for success.

Kris Abrams-Draine ran a kickoff 100 yards back for a touchdown in the third quarter, proof of how skilled Abrams-Draine is as an asset to the Tigers.

Grant McKinniss also nailed two punts inside the UT 20-yard line. He averaged 44 yards per punt Saturday.

Grade: A

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