Tennessee had its third different starting quarterback already this season when true freshman Josh Dobbs made his first career start, but unfortunately for the Volunteers, the results were the same as the other two quarterbacks.
Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman had their opportunities earlier this season for Butch Jones‘ team, but ineffectiveness and injury cost them their jobs as Dobbs looked to take advantage of his opportunity at Missouri. However, the same problems that Tennessee experienced in their four losses entering Saturday evening’s game against the Tigers crept up as Tennessee dropped to 4-5 on the season.
Dobbs wasn’t exemplary by any stretch of the imagination, but he had zero help from the rest of the offense. Conversely, his counterpart Maty Mauk has been aided by his supporting cast on offense and defense to mask his inexperience and deficiencies in his three starts since replacing the injured James Franklin.
The much-ballyhooed Volunteers offensive line could not open up any running room for Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane all night long. Sure, Missouri has a stout defensive line led by the nation’s sack leader in Michael Sam, but this was a poor performance all around. Tennessee’s only shot at upsetting Missouri on the road relied on the five offensive linemen dominating the line of scrimmage, so Neal and Lane could control the clock and pick up first down after first down.
They finished with 94 yards (45 from Dobbs) on 24 attempts for a 4.1 yards per carry average. By comparison, Missouri had 338 yards on 54 attempts for a 6.3 yards per carry average. That’s your ballgame.
Without a running game, Tennessee became one-dimensional and was forced to throw more than Jones would have liked with a freshman, no matter how talented he may be, making his first career start. Tennessee failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 24 games.
Asking your freshman quarterback to win the game on the road against a top-10 team is not a winning recipe. Dobbs is going to be the starter for the rest of the season and things will get better for him and Tennessee, but he needs the five guys blocking for him to hold up their end of the bargain for him to reach his potential.
Dobbs showed off the skills that made him a four-star recruit (285 total yards) that had fans clamoring to see him for weeks, but he also flashed the inexperience of a guy making his first start (two interceptions), which you can expect to an extent on the road vs. a top 10 opponent.
What fans can’t tolerate is the number of mental and physical mistakes by the offensive line which is expected to lead this young offense.
Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and Google and email him at SchmidtPatrick@gmail.com for media inquiries.