Missouri’s game at Faurot Field on Saturday was played under a steel gray, typically November sky, but it felt like some sun was finally shining on the program.
Missouri demolished Florida 45-16, the Tigers’ third straight win. Their bowl chances, which looked dead in early October, were starting to look good. Likely, even.
Missouri (4-5, 1-4) picked up its first SEC win, and now has three more games against beatable SEC opponents to close the season. Florida (3-5, 3-4 in SEC) is a reeling team that lost for the fourth time in a row and was playing with an interim head coach, Randy Shannon.
But even with all the tumult facing the Gators these days, this was still a more impressive win than the previous two, at home against Idaho and at Connecticut.
After quarterback Drew Lock threw an interception in the end zone on the first drive of the game, the Tigers rolled, leading 28-3 late in the second quarter and delighting the small but appreciative crowd.
Lock was efficient throwing the ball, completing 15 of 21 passes. But Missouri’s ground game was perhaps even more impressive. The Tigers pounded the ball, running 46 times for 227 yards, methodically marching up and down the field and giving their defense much longer breaks than usual. Ish Witter and Larry Rountree each ran for 83 yards.
It was the kind of win that could maybe help Missouri fans start to feel optimistic again. It feels like the program has some positive momentum, even if it’s a fairly modest helping.
Missouri continues its tour of the bottom of the SEC on Saturday when the Tennessee Volunteers come to Columbia (6:30 p.m. on SEC Network). The Tigers are a solid favorite in this one, which would’ve seemed questionable earlier in the year but now reflects the recent results for the two schools.
The Vols (4-5, 0-5 in SEC) are winless in conference play and seem to be barreling toward firing coach Butch Jones. Tennessee had lost four straight before beating Southern Miss 24-10 at Neyland Stadium last Saturday.
The Vols have especially struggled on offense, ranking 111th nationally in passing yards per game, 103rd in rushing yards and 107th in scoring. They have shuffled generally ineffective quarterbacks, but running back John Kelly can be pretty dangerous. Despite being suspended for the Kentucky game, he has 694 rushing yards on the season.
Missouri still has its flaws, but this is a game the Tigers should win. Tennessee has been reeling most of the season, and Jones has sort of felt like a lame duck coach for weeks now. But Tennessee does have some talent on the roster, so the Tigers should be wary.
A win would bring the Tigers within one win of bowl eligibility. Missouri next plays at Vanderbilt, the other team that is winless in SEC play. Then comes the season final at Arkansas, which has one SEC win. The opportunities are there, but Missouri still has work to do to save something of the season.

By Benjamin Herrold