Dorial Green-Beckham, the No. 1 football recruit in America last winter, picked a heck of a time to hold his coming-out party in college.
Trailing 28-21, Missouri was down to its last gasp Saturday at Neyland Stadium, facing a fourth-and-12 at Tennessee's 25-yard line with less than a minute left in regulation.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound wideout slipped free in the west corner of the north end zone and caught a touchdown pass that forced the game into overtime. Then, on third-and-10 in the third OT, he snared a 10-yard TD pass that gave the Tigers a 48-42 lead. Without that catch, Mizzou settles for a field goal and probably loses to the Vols, who scored a touchdown on their subsequent possession.
Green-Beckham is just another in a long line of opponents to make big plays at Tennessee's expense this season. Teammate James Franklin, playing on a gimpy left knee, still threw for 226 yards and four touchdowns. Then there was Kendial Lawrence, who burned the Vols for 153 rushing yards, including a 77-yard touchdown burst.
On a positive note, Vol holder Tyler Drummer scored on a five-yard TD run off a fake field goal in the second overtime.
Who is Tyler Drummer? He's a walk-on from Knoxville's Powell High School by way of College of the Cumberlands.
Where the game was lost
Tennessee dominated the first half, piling up 383 yards of total offense to Missouri's 64. Lawrence's 77-yard run on the first scrimmage play of the second half trimmed a 21-7 Vol lead to 21-14, silenced the Tennessee crowd and had the Vols thinking “Here we go again.” And they were right.
The big picture
Did this loss seal head coach Derek Dooley's doom? Probably. He's 0-6 in SEC play this season and 4-18 in two-plus seasons at the Vol helm. After 6-7 and 5-7 records in 2010 and 2011, the best he can finish in 2012 is 6-6.
Players of the game
Offense: Mychal Rivera
Tennessee's senior tight end established career highs for catches (10) and yards (129) against Missouri. His 21-yard touchdown reception produced a 21-7 second-quarter lead that put the Tigers on their heels.
“They were running a lot of different coverages – cover 2, cover 1, cover 3,” Rivera said. “When you play basic coverages like that and try to play zone with the linebackers, I'm found open a lot. The middle of the field is open a lot.”
Unfortunately for Rivera, his career day wasn't enough to lift Tennessee to victory. That hurt.
“Definitely,” he said. “When you're having a game like that, you'd definitely like to get a win under your belt. I'm real disappointed.”
Defense: Jaron Toney
The former walk-on tailback, now playing defensive back in Tennessee's nickel and dime packages, led the Vols with 7 solo stops and tied for the team lead with 11 total hits.
“Jaron Toney's been real big,” senior defensive back Prentiss Waggner said. “Even in the spring we knew Jaron Toney could be a hell of a star for us, playing that dime position because he's a physical guy, a former running back. He knows the fit of those (running) gaps, so to have him on defense is real big.”
Jordan Rodgers threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chris Boys with 52 seconds left, lifting the Commodores to a 27-26 win at Ole Miss Saturday night. Vandy (6-4 overall, 4-3 SEC) overcame a 23-6 deficit by outscoring the Rebels 21-3 down the stretch. The Dores allowed Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace to pile up 403 passing yards but limited the Rebels to just 55 rushing yards.