Joshua Dobbs completed 26-of-42 passes for 240 yards but threw two interceptions in his first start as the Volunteers lost 31-3 to No. 10 Missouri on Saturday night. The freshman also rushed for a team-high 45 yards, nearly half of the team’s 94 total yards on the ground.
The Volunteers dug a 17-0 hole in the second quarter and trailed 24-3 at the half a week after a 35-0 deficit midway through a 42-10 loss at No. 1 Alabama. The three points were the team’s fewest since getting the same against South Carolina in a 14-3 loss on Oct. 29, 2011.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged,” first-year coach Butch Jones said. “Nobody said it’s going to be easy.”
Tennessee (4-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) has lost all four of its road games this season by at least 14 points and have dropped 19 consecutive on opponents’ fields dating back to 2010. It hasn’t defeated a ranked team on the road since 2006.
The Volunteers gained 334 yards to Missouri’s 502, providing little help for Dobbs. In the team’s best scoring chance, receiver Josh Smith dropped a touchdown pass that led to a 51-yard field goal by Michael Palardy that made the score 17-3 with 4:13 remaining in the first half.
“Josh is very mature,” receiver Pig Howard said. “He’s always poised. Regardless of any mistake he makes, he comes back with a positive attitude. He’s just a hard worker in general. He wasn’t down on himself at all.”
Howard caught a career-high 11 passes for 89 yards, besting his previous high of eight against South Carolina two weeks ago.
Maty Mauk threw three touchdown passes and ran for 114 yards for Missouri (8-1, 4-1) in a dominant and resilient effort.
The Tigers responded smartly a week after squandering a 17-point cushion in the fourth quarter of a double-overtime loss to South Carolina. Andrew Baggett banged another chip-shot field goal attempt off the left goalpost, eerily similar to his game-ending misfire a week earlier, but instead of heartbreak they still took a 24-3 cushion into halftime.
Missouri forced three turnovers and committed none in Mauk’s best game in three starts in place of injured James Franklin. Mauk had 114 yards on 13 carries, and threw touchdown passes to Dorial Green-Beckham, L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas in the first half. Franklin (shoulder sprain) warmed up before the game.
“We expected him to run,” Jones said. “That’s part of Maty’s game. He can make plays with his legs. . Those things are catastrophic to a defense when a quarterback’s able to run like he’s able to run.”
Dobbs also lost a fumble in place of injured Justin Worley, out indefinitely after thumb surgery. Tennessee was 2 for 13 on third down.
E.J. Gaines and Braylon Webb had interceptions for Missouri and Matt White had a fumble recovery on a strip by Darvin Ruise. Missouri has forced a turnover in 39 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation.
Mauk entered with 22 yards rushing on 21 carries. His 27-yard scramble to the 11 with one second left in the half led to Baggett’s 29-yard miss.
Dobbs had 101 yards passing and 43 rushing in the first half, dulled by two turnovers. Washington was alone in the end zone on a 26-yard catch set up by Gaines’ team-leading interception to make it 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
“I said at the beginning of the season that we needed to be a blue-collar team,” Jones said. “Our margin of error is very small, we need to overachieve in any and all areas to have a chance. Missouri is a good football team but what I cannot tolerate is missed assignments, the penalties.”