KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee won the battle against Missouri even as the Vols were eliminated from the SEC East Division title race.
Tennesssee (8-3, 4-3 SEC) beat Missouri (3-8, 1-6) by a 63-37 count on Saturday in front of a crowd of 101,012 at Neyland Stadium in its final home game of the season.
The Vols pulled away in the fourth quarter, sending their 10 seniors off with a victory even as they gave up a program-record 743 total yards.
Quarterback Josh Dobbs broke loose on a career-long 70-yard TD run to spark the final quarter. Tailbacks Alvin Kamara and John Kelly followed with touchdown runs and Jonathan Kongbo capped the scoring with a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Dobbs was 15-of-22 passing for 223 yards with three touchdowns and rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Tennessee held a 21-20 lead at the half in a game that was as close as the score indicated, a missed Tigers extra-point the difference.
Missouri gained 251 of its rushing yards through the first 30 minutes, drawing first blood on Damarea Crockett’s 22-yard TD run. Crockett finished with 225 yards on 24 carries and the score.
It marked the ninth time in the 10 games the Vols have played against FBS opponents that Tennessee was forced to come from behind for a victory.
Some wondered how the Vols would fare in the second half, surely aware Florida had beaten LSU 16-10 to clinch the SEC East.
But Micah Abernathy intercepted Missouri QB Drew Lock (21-43, 323, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions) on the first play of the second half, and the Vols led the remainder of the game.
Four things learned
• Dobbs’ team lead in the rushing department is legit. Dobbs broke off a career-long 70-yard run and also had a 40-yard burst, showing his strong and elusive running skills.
• Tennessee’s run defense hasn’t improved much from the previous game against Kentucky. The Vols surrendered 443 yards on the ground to the Wildcats and another 420 yards to Missouri on Saturday.
• Junior college transfer Jonathan Kongbo has bought into the team concept, seeing his first extensive playing time at defensive tackle in Tennessee’s 4-3 alignment against Missouri. Kongbo returned an interception 59 yards for a TD.
• The Vols surrendered (743) total yards, the most ever given up by a Tennessee defense, surpassing the 721 allowed to Troy in 2012.
• Dobbs’ 70-yard TD run gave the Vols a 42-30 lead in the fourth quarter and provided a much-needed cushion.
• Tennessee’s 24-21 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 29 meant the Vols no longer were in control of their own destiny, and the Gators took advantage and won the SEC East.
• Can Jones keep the Vols motivated for next Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. ET game at Vanderbilt.
• Derek Barnett’s sack gave him 31 in his career, one shy of the school record held by Reggie White.
What it means
• Tennessee will finish out the season hoping to position itself for a high-exposure bowl win and a top 10 finish in the rankings.