It was a tough night to be a Tiger fan, sitting on a cold metal bench watching their team’s spiral slowly continue. Tennessee scored a touchdown to go ahead with 22 seconds left in the third quarter and the crowd groaned. Then the officiating crew signaled a stop for a TV timeout, despite the quarter break TV timeout coming 22 seconds later, and the chilled crowd groaned again.
Missouri (5-6, 2-5 in SEC play) did break its touchdown drought and led for the first time since Oct. 12, but Tennessee (6-5, 4-3 in SEC) was the better team, especially with their talented receivers making plays. The Volunteers had two field goals blocked and lost a fumble, which kept Missouri in the game. But Tennessee outgained Missouri 526-280. Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano threw for over 400 yards, and the Vols’ talented trio of Josh Palmer, Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway each had over 100 receiving yards.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, on the same weekend, Missouri merrily hung 50 on Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, with Drew Lock leading an exciting offense, and many happy Tiger fans making the trip to cheer on their team that was working toward an 8-4 regular season.
Now, Missouri is 5-6, has an offense that’s fairly tedious to watch, and needs to beat lowly Arkansas on Black Friday (1:30 p.m. on CBS) to be bowl eligible, even as Missouri’s postseason eligibility appeal with the NCAA ridiculously remains unresolved.
The question hanging over the program now is whether head coach Barry Odom will be brought back for a fifth season. Odom is a Mizzou alum, and until recently seemed to be making progress with the program. But this year’s failure to take advantage of a favorable schedule had turned up the heat on him, including three stunning losses as a double-digit favorite.
For now, fans can focus on the Battle Line Rivalry game with Arkansas (2-9, 0-7 in SEC). The Razorbacks fired their coach, Chad Morris, earlier this season, ending a fairly disastrous 22-game tenure. Barry Lunney, Jr., who played quarterback at Arkansas in the 1990s, is the interim coach for the Razorbacks, so we’ll have a Barry Bowl on Friday.
Arkansas his having a season that makes Missouri’s looked downright successful, as the Hogs have lost to San Jose State, lost every SEC game and gotten drilled by Western Kentucky, which was using a quarterback who had transferred from Arkansas.
The game is played in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium, because Arkansas just can’t give up playing a game there each season, despite having a great stadium on campus in Fayetteville. It could be a sparse crowd and not the best atmosphere. Missouri could really use a win. Whatever happens with the uncertainty around the program, making it back to a bowl game would certainly be something positive to salvage from an otherwise disappointing season.