Tennessee Stat Book
Tyler Bray has played three of the best games of his career the past three weeks. That Tennessee is 1-2 (and very close to 0-3) during that stretch demonstrates that this team's can't be solved by one player. Bray put up monster numbers and carried the team when the running game lapsed.
Running backs C
The running game probably deserved a shot to make more of an impact in the overtime periods when coaches entrusted the offense with Bray exclusively. Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane combined for a respectable 109 yards on 23 carries, but much of that came in the first half. Lane had a fumble that prevented the Vols from taking a more decisive lead before halftime.
Wide receivers/tight ends A
Mychal Rivera took advantage of plenty of room in the middle of the field to catch a career-high 10 passes for 129 yards. Justin Hunter made several NFL-caliber catches as part of a 143-yard day. Cordarrelle Patterson had more carries (five) than catches (three).
Offensive line B
Bray was sacked only once and had enough time to throw for most of the game. The line opened some huge holes for backs in the first half, but Mizzou did a good job of keeping 10-yard runs from turning into 50-yard touchdowns. Penalties were an issue in the first half, and Bray said the Vols slowed the pace a bit in the second half to let the line catch up with all of the defense's shifting.
Defensive line b
It's hard to find many faults with a unit that at least flushed Missouri quarterback James Franklin out of the pocket and forced him to make plays. It's not their fault the team's secondary was undressed once again. Nose guard Daniel McCullers forced what could have been a huge fumble and made six tackles.
A.J. Johnson posted 11 tackles, but the Vols' most talented group again has to take some heat for allowing more than 400 yards and more than 50 points. Herman Lathers was often subbed out in favor of Jaron Toney and finished without a tackle.
After holding Missouri's offense in check for much of the day, the Vols' much-maligned secondary allowed Franklin to throw all four of his touchdown passes in the final minute of regulation or overtime. Fair or not, those are the plays a team, and in this case, a unit, is measured on.
Special Teams D+
Take away that 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Mizzou's Jimmie Hunt and it's a very different game, no? Toss in a missed 43-yard field goal by Michael Palardy and a quiet day from the team's return units and the grade fits.
The fake field-goal call was brilliant because it worked. So coach Derek Dooley's other decisions must be judged more harshly because, ultimately, they didn't work. Fans (loudly) voiced their opinion that the Vols should have tried to get into field-goal range before the end of regulation, and it's hard to disagree with them.
While Saturday's finish was similar to Tennessee's other close losses, the game was different in one crucial way: This was the first SEC game in 2012 that Tennessee controlled from almost virtually beginning to end. That the Vols still couldn't pull off a victory makes it all the more frustrating and tougher to bounce back from.