In a game that looked like it would go Tennessee's way, the Volunteers couldn't put away the Missouri Tigers and eventually fell 51-48 in four overtimes.
"It's a hard loss and we fought good and our players played their tails off," head coach Derek Dooley said. "We just didn't execute at the end to win the game."
Tennessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC) started with the ball in the fourth overtime period and elected to go for the first down on fourth-and-three from Missouri's 18-yard line instead of kicking a go-ahead field goal. Tyler Bray's pass fell incomplete, as senior receiver Zach Rogers was unable to corral the ball to move the chains.
After three running plays on its possession, the Tigers sent redshirt freshman Andrew Baggett out for the 35-yard field goal attempt. Baggett's kick sailed through the uprights and the Tigers flooded the field to celebrate.
"It was fourth-and-three and I didn't have a lot of confidence that we were stopping them on the other side," said Dooley. "So they scored four straight touchdowns. On our bread and butter, we didn't execute ... "
Tennessee led by 14 with 8:03 left in the third quarter, but Missouri (5-5, 2-5 SEC) scored two unanswered touchdowns, capped off by a fourth-and-12 touchdown pass from quarterback James Franklin to Dorial Green-Beckham with less than a minute left in regulation, sending the game to overtime.
"B-Mo (Byron Moore) said he had the deep half, but they had two guys in his zone and when the quarterback scrambled he took one of the guys and the quarterback hit the other guy," said senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner.
The Vols got the ball back with 43 seconds left at its own 39-yard line, but after an incomplete pass and a play for no gain, Dooley elected to let the clock run out and take the game to overtime instead of calling one of his two timeouts.
"The first two play(s), I was pushing it," Dooley said. "We screwed up both of those plays — poor execution. I didn't have confidence we were going to get it on third-and-ten."
The two teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, and the Vols needed a Tyler Drummer touchdown run on a fourth-and-four fake field goal from the Tiger's 5-yard line to take the game to the third overtime period.
"It was a great snap, the line blocked really well and it opened up for me," Drummer said. "It was like a dream come true."
Both the Vols and Tigers failed to convert on the 2-point conversion in the third overtime to send the game to the fourth, where Missouri would eventually win the game.
Tennessee went into the locker room at halftime with a 21-7 lead and had held the Tigers to a mere 64 yards of total offense. The Vols left points on the field though, as running back Marlin Lane fumbled inside the Tigers' 10-yard line and kicker Michael Palardy missed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The second half was a different story, as the Tigers found a rhythm against the UT defense. Franklin, who was held to a meager 2-of-8 passing for 18 yards in the first half, exploded for 208 passing yards and four touchdowns on 17-of-24 in the second half and overtime.
"They pretty much ran the same thing, we pretty much ran the same thing," said linebacker A.J. Johnson. "They just started making plays."
Tennessee will look to get its first SEC win, much like last year, against the Vanderbilt Commodores next Saturday.