QB replacements in spotlight for Vols, Missouri
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)
Freshman Josh Dobbs will make his first career start this week for the Volunteers (4-4, 1-3 Southeastern Conference), who haven't defeated a ranked opponent since 2006 and have dropped 18 consecutive true road games.
''You have to be locked in,'' first-year coach Butch Jones said. ''You can't let the crowd, you can't let the clutter and distraction creep into place. It's a mindset. That's the next phase for this football team and this football program.''
Dobbs replaced injured junior Justin Worley (thumb) in the second half of last week's 45-10 loss at Alabama and led two scoring drives for Tennessee's only points of the game. He completed five of 12 passes for 75 yards and ran three times for 19 yards.
That might sound familiar to the Tigers (7-1, 3-1).
Three weeks ago, Missouri redshirt freshman Maty Mauk entered a 36-17 win at Georgia in the final quarter for senior James Franklin (shoulder), leading two touchdown drives to seal the victory.
Franklin has been upgraded to questionable for Saturday's game against the Vols, but Mauk is expected to make his third career start after his team collapsed in the fourth quarter last week against South Carolina. The Tigers led 17-0 with 15 minutes remaining but lost 27-24 in double overtime, trimming their lead to one game in the SEC East with four to play.
''We still control our destiny,'' nose guard Lucas Vincent said. ''We know we can play a lot better.''
Missouri won the first meeting between the two schools last year 51-48 on a 35-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett in quadruple overtime.
Here are five things to know about the matchup:
TURNOVERS: Missouri leads the SEC in forced turnovers with 21 and interceptions with 15. Tennessee ranks second in the conference with 18 takeaways and 12 picks. The difference can be found on offense, where the Volunteers have committed an SEC-worst 15 turnovers, six more than the Tigers. With two young quarterbacks, whichever team's signal caller can maintain his patience in the pocket will draw an advantage. Also look for defensive backs to jump pass routes attempting to make the big play.
STOPPING MICHAEL SAM: Missouri ranks first in the SEC in sacks (25) and is tied for first in tackles for loss (62). Defensive end Michael Sam leads the Tigers' front four, registering another sack and three tackles for loss last week to bring his totals to 10 and 16, respectively. Tennessee's offensive line, anchored by left tackle Antonio Richardson and right tackle Ja'Wuan James, will be tasked with protecting its freshman quarterback. If Sam and his teammates can break through, it could be a long day for the Volunteers' offense.
MOBILE QUARTERBACKS: While both quarterbacks are inexperienced, they are also a threat outside the pocket. Dobbs rushed for 419 yards and 10 touchdowns in his senior season in high school, while Mauk broke the national prep record for total offense with 22,681 yards during his four years. Not including sacks, Mauk ran eight times for 45 yards against South Carolina, but coaches said this week that he's starting to bail out of the pocket too soon whenever he feels pressure.
FREE FOOTBALL: Last year's matchup involved four extra periods and these teams rank first and second nationally in overtime victories. Since the NCAA established the overtime rule for the 1995 bowl season, Missouri is 11-5 in such games while Tennessee is 10-4. Incidentally, both have lost overtime games this season, with the Tigers falling to South Carolina and the Volunteers dropping a 34-31 decision to Georgia on Oct. 5.
BOUNCING BACK: Both teams are coming off heartbreaking performances in different ways. Missouri lost a double-overtime thriller at home on a missed 24-yard field goal attempt by Baggett that disrupted a dream season, while Tennessee got clobbered by its longtime rival. Whoever can right the ship quickest might carry the lead throughout the game.