Gray rushes for 105 yards in Vols' win over Mizzou
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Eric Gray and Ty Chandler combined to rush for 195 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead No. 21 Tennessee to a 35-12 victory over Missouri Saturday.
The Vols (2-0) have won eight in a row, tying them with Notre Dame for the most among Power Five teams.
Connor Bazelak relieved Shawn Robinson at quarterback in the second quarter or Missouri (0-2), but the Tigers could still only muster one touchdown.
Jarrett Guarantano played a mistake-free game for Tennessee, completing 14 of 23 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. He also converted on three fourth-down runs in the first quarter and had two short touchdown runs.
"There were three times Jarrett didn't make the right read," said Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt. "That's three out of about 76 (plays). We'll continue to work hard. We put a lot on him."
Behind a strong performance by Tennessee's offensive line, the Vols battered the defense. Gray ran for 105 yards, with a touchdown rushing and receiving. Chandler rolled up 90 yards and a touchdown.
"(Missouri) really stacked the box," Pruitt said. "We wanted to run the football. We were going to run even against bad looks."
The Tigers couldn't limit the run, which opened up Tennessee's passing game for some big plays as the Vols led 21-6 at intermission.
"(We) didn't start fast enough on either side of the ball, offensively or defensively," said Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz. "Really struggled in the first half to stop them and their momentum. And offensively, we've got to score touchdowns, we can't be settling for field goals. Thought we were going to mount a comeback right there in the fourth quarter and then the interception kind of took the wind out of our sails."
Two fourth-and-1 conversions on the opening drive -- both runs by Guarantano -- were instrumental in Tennessee's 7-0 lead. Chandler capped off the 14-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard run.
"Fourth down runs have got to be a mindset," Pruitt said. "In these times (of the pandemic), we're not living in fear. We're not playing in fear or coaching in fear."
"(Vols offensive coordinator Jim) Chaney has about 50 plays," Guarantano said of the quarterback sneaks. "I've gone through every single one. I'm wearing my Johnny Majors shirt today. I wanted to get a couple yards for him."
Majors, the former Tennessee great player and coach, died in June at 85. Robinson started the game 1 for 4 for no yards, opening up an opportunity for Bazelak to generate some offense in a relief role. Bazelak completed 5 of 8 passes for 72 yards in the second quarter.
That set up Missouri freshman kicker Harrison Mevis to connect on field goals from 27 and 50 yards.
Mevis' 50-yard field goal in the second quarter was the longest for Missouri since Tucker McCain connected from 57 yards in 2018. It was also the longest field goal for a freshman Tigers kicker since Jeff Jacke in 1988.
Gray's 20-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter allowed the sophomore to become the first Volunteer to score rushing TDs in four consecutive games since quarterback Josh Dobbs in 2016.
Several Tennessee gameday traditions were changed because of COVID-19 protocols. There was a Vol Walk through campus before the game, but with limited fans. The band was planted in the south end zone, with no pregame or halftime on-field opportunities.
Neyland Stadium, which can hold 102,455, was limited to just 21,159 (about 2,000 below what would have been considered a sellout) and distanced throughout.
The Vols are hoping to crack the Top 20 this week.
Tennessee: Travels to No. 4 Georgia Saturday.
Missouri: Visits LSU on Saturday.