The Missouri Tigers defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 51-48 in four overtimes Saturday, recording their second SEC victory of the season and evening their overall record at 5-5. The Tigers won despite being outgained by 141 yards, competing half as many passes as the Vols, and committing one turnover more than Tennessee. Resident SB Nation college football stats guru and Rock M Nation proprietor Bill Connelly went searching for answers:
Occasionally, a game is virtually inexplicable. Case in point: Tennessee outgained Missouri by 131 yards, won the turnover battle by 3.7 equivalent points, made more trips inside the opponent's 40-yard line, and had an advantage of about five yards in average starting field position. But Missouri won.
If this were a game I hadn't watched, I'd eventually end up ascribing the Mizzou win to special teams. Mizzou returned a kickoff for a touchdown, had a net punting average 7.4 yards better than Tennessee's (45.4 to 38.0), and made its only field goal from 35 yards out, while the Vols badly missed their only attempt from 43 yards. But that feels like an unsatisfactory answer, doesn't it? So let's go into a little more detail.
Quarterback James Franklin, who missed time in September with an injured shoulder, and then injured his knee against Vanderbilt leading to more time out of the lineup, came up for praise after a four-touchdown day:
He still leaves the pocket at the wrong time sometimes. I still hold my breath as he's getting ready to throw the ball. He's still not much of a runner right now. He's still not the James Franklin we would be seeing without the knee injury and two different shoulder injuries. There's no getting that guy back right now. But he just got better, and better, and better as the game progressed yesterday, and he deserves an epic amount of credit for that. Nine first-half pass attempts gained 12 yards. His next 24 gained 208. And with the game on the line, he completed his last four third- and fourth-down passes for 70 yards and three touchdowns.
Rock M Nation also took solace in the success of Texas A&M, in the wake of the Aggies' upset win over Alabama:
As a Missouri fan, it could be quite natural to feel a bit uneasy, or jealous, about Texas A&M's sudden rise in the SEC West. Don't. While this will almost CERTAINLY make A&M fans more unbearable than before, A&M's success this year has shown that what Missouri wants to do on offense can work if Missouri has the talent (and good health) to do it. Long-term, this is very, very good news, worth a little short-term annoyance. With a good quarterback, a great offensive line and confidence, Texas A&M is 8-2 and getting ready to jump into the Top 10 after winning AT No. 1 Alabama. That wipes the slate clean from a storylines perspective. That is tremendous. There officially is no more "Can the spread work in the SEC?" conversation. There is only a "Do you have the personnel necessary to run your offense of choice?" conversation. And with a little bit of injuries luck next year, Mizzou quite possibly will.
Missouri returns to action next week against 5-5 Syracuse, which knocked off undefeated Louisville Saturday. The Tigers close their regular season at College Station against the aforementioned Aggies.