Receiver Justin Hunter was named Tennessee's top special teams player after last Saturday's victory against Troy. The honor wasn't because he did anything extraordinary, but simply because he was there.
Running back Devrin Young, Tennessee's normal kickoff and punt returner, missed the game due to a concussion, coach Derek Dooley said.
"We were really proud of Justin Hunter, just because of how unselfish he was about it," said special teams coach Charlie Coiner. "At a moment's notice Justin went back there and fielded punts. Our whole mantra last week was that we wanted to keep the ball off the ground. We had (Cordarrelle Patterson) as a short returner and we had Justin back there who did a magnificent job of keeping the ball off the ground.
Hunter also was the "jump guy" on field-goal block attempts and a gunner on the punter team.
While Missouri's offense hasn't met expectations this year (ranked 112 of 120 teams nationally), the Tigers' defense has been surprisingly good. Missouri's defense is ranked 22nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision, allowing an average of 327.6 yards per game. That's not even half of the 718 Tennessee ran up last week.
"They're a solid defense. They've shut down a lot of good offenses and they're really good against the pass," said Tennessee receivers coach Darin Hinshaw.
Hinshaw said the Vols "can't take a play off" in Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium.
"The details of our routes are extremely important. You ever sit there and think you're not getting the ball, because you are, and Tyler Bray will find you," he said.
The last game Sam Pittman coached before joining Tennessee's coaching staff was against Missouri. North Carolina lost to Missouri 41-24 in the Independence Bowl last year, and Pittman said he's still familiar with the Tigers' personnel.
"All those guys that I had watched last year are back this year, and they're really good at defensive end," Pittman said.
Pittman called defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson "one of the best in the country."
"The thing that separates him is his athleticism," Pittman said. "He can really run and he has a high motor. Missouri's whole defense is high-motor guys."
Pittman coached at two high schools in Missouri during the 1980s and was an assistant coach at Missouri in 2000, the year before current coach Gary Pinkel was hired.
Why have Tennessee's interceptions plummeted after an encouraging start in the opener against North Carolina State?
"To get an interception a lot of things have to happen right," said cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley. "The line has to pressure the quarterback, the quarterback has to throw to the wrong guy, and the receiver has to run not the exact route that they are supposed to run."
So what's left for the defense.
"We have to be in position to make the plays," Ansley said.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.