Tennessee suffered its worst and most embarrassing defeat in the Josh Heupel Era, officially ending any hopes of winning the SEC East Division and casting doubt as to how this season will be judged.
Missouri gained a measure of revenge for having been routed by the Vols two years in a row with a convincing 36-7 victory Saturday at Columbia, Mo.
The Tigers (8-2) ran through and passed over a beleaguered Tennessee defense and stymied Heupel’s offense like no other UT opponent under his watch.
How bad was it for the Vols (7-3)?
*Missouri’s defense scored as many points as UT’s offense.
*Missouri ran for 255 yards against the SEC’s top-ranked run defense.
*Missouri running back Cody Schrader, a former Division II transfer who joined the Tigers as a walk-on, made SEC history by becoming the first player to have a 200-rush, 100-receiving game; he had 205 rush yards on 35 carries and 116 receiving yards on five catches.
*Tennessee scored its fewest points ever under Heupel.
*Tennessee had at least five players go down with injuries in the first half.
*On Tennessee’s lone touchdown, a 46-yard catch by Dont’e Thornton, Thornton was injured and didn’t return.
*On one of UT’s fumbles, running back Dylan Sampson knocked the ball out of Joe Milton’s hand.
*Tennessee went from scoring 66 points against Missouri last year to seven this year.
*The Vols had 6 yards on three snaps in the first quarter.
*UT missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt in the last 40 seconds trying to get to double digits in points.
It was a comedy of errors for UT, and Missouri had the last laugh.
“We had some unfinished business from last year,’’ said Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, who, privately, was ticked about the Vols tacking on a late touchdown a season ago.
Drinkwitz was particularly proud of limiting the high-powered Vols’ attack after UT had scored 128 points in the last two meetings, averaging over 700 yards of offense.
“Our defense kicked their ass tonight,’’ Drinkwitz said.
It sure did. UT, which entered the game leading the SEC in rushing (227.8), was held to 83 yards on 23 carries. Jaylen Wright, who was averaging an SEC-best 7.5 yards per carry, had 22 yards on seven attempts.
“Really disappointed,’’ said Heupel. “We’ll have to live with this one for a while.
“We didn’t play smart enough football to change the way the game was played.’’
Heupel said Missouri’s defense showed a “different structure and different personnel than was anticipated.’’
Bemoaning the lack of a run game, Heupel said: “We had little to no efficiency on offense. We were not playing Tennessee football.
“I own it. The staff owns it. He (Milton) has got to own it, too.’’
Milton’s numbers weren’t bad – 22 of 33 for 267 yards and one score – but he threw a pick six and misfired on multiple second-half passes, not allowing the offense to find a rhythm.
Schrader, held to 25 yards on 10 rushes against UT last year, shredded UT’s defense, a defense that held Kentucky running back Ray Davis to 42 yards on 16 attempts.
“I’ll be extremely grateful for the rest of my life to this University,’’ said Schrader, who had 321 yards from scrimmage. “They believed in me when nobody else did.’’
Schrader made a believer out of Tennessee’s defense.
And Drinkwitz made a believer out of teams from the state of Tennessee. This season, the Tigers beat Memphis, MTSU, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
“We’re the Tennessee state champs,’’ boasted Drinkwitz.
No one in orange could argue that.