3. Vols won in the trenches.
Part of the reason Tennessee football won was the play in the trenches. It’s hard to understate how big of a deal this was. Mizzou came into the game, based on all the advanced metrics, with a top five defensive line in the nation. Well, UT’s offensive line manhandled them for most of the game. It really wasn’t even close.
Rocky Top averaged over seven yards a carry on the ground, gaining 264 yards on 37 carries and scoring five touchdowns. They easily controlled the line of scrimmage against Mizzou’s best asset. There were a couple of blitzes the Vols didn’t pick up early, which is why Hendon Hooker was sacked three times.
However, that was partially due to missed assignments, some of it was on the exterior blocking beyond the line, and some of it was on the receivers not getting open. In terms of winning matchups, the Vols easily won their matchups with Mizzou up front.
Meanwhile, the defensive line did its job too. Omari Thomas got banged up a few times, but leading rusher Cody Schrader was held to 25 yards on 10 carries. There were eight hurries and two sacks. Now, technically Mizzou ran it well, but that was because of Brady Cook, which leads to our next takeway in this one.