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Tennessee tops Mizzou in battle for bowl eligibility
Tennessee running back Ty Chandler, center, leaps between Missouri defenders Nick Bolton, right, Joshuah Bledsoe, top left, and Devin Nicholson, bottom left, during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
COLUMBIA, Mo. Jarrett Guarantano threw for 415 yards and two touchdown passes to lead Tennessee to a 24-20 victory over Missouri on Saturday night.
Tennessee (6-5, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) has won four straight games and is bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. Missouri (5-6, 2-5) has lost its last five.
After coming off the bench the previous six games, Guarantano started the game and completed 23 of 40 passes.
“When you play against these guys, the different looks they give you, you’re going to have to check at the line of scrimmage, and he absolutely gives us the best chance to do that,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “And, hey, we’ve got confidence in him. He’s got everything you need to be a good quarterback, and tonight was far and away his best game.”
Josh Palmer had six receptions for 124 yards. Jauan Jennings added five catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Martez Callaway had six catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.
When Tucker McCann made a 30-yard field goal to cap Missouri’s first drive, it was the first time the Tigers have led in a game since an Oct. 12 victory over Mississippi. Kelly Bryant completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Badie in the second quarter for the Tigers’ first TD in 32 drives.
Bryant finished 16-of-28 passing for 166 yards.
“They battled, they competed, they fought and we came up short,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “And I hate it that it resulted in a loss.”
Tennessee took a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter on a drive in which it made four third-down conversions and was capped by Guarantano’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jennings, who broke three tackles to get into the end zone.
The Volunteers took over on their own 24 with 38 seconds left in the half, and Guarantano moved them crisply down the field to set up Brent Cimaglia’s 27-yard field goal as time expired to give Tennessee a 17-10 halftime lead.
Missouri tied the game in the third quarter on a trick play. Bryant threw a backward pass to Micah Wilson, who found a wide-open Badie in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. Wilson began his career as a quarterback before switching to wide receiver after last season.
Tennessee reclaimed the lead for good at 24-17 after Callaway grabbed a 17-yard touchdown pass from Guarantano despite being interfered with on the play.
The Volunteers converted 9 of 15 third downs and outgained the Tigers 526-280.
Tennessee: After starting the season with home losses to Georgia State and BYU, the Volunteers clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016. Tennessee’s only losses since those two early defeats came against current Top 10 teams Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Missouri: The Tigers were 5-1 and ranked 22nd entering their Oct. 19 game at Vanderbilt. A loss to the Commodores began a slide that has led to questions about coach Barry Odom’s job security. Odom is 24-25 in four seasons at his alma mater. He has a chance to even his record and secure bowl eligibility against struggling Arkansas.
WAITING FOR FINAL DECISION
Missouri was hit in January with an NCAA postseason ban for academic violations committed before Odom took over as coach, but the school is appealing the ban and the NCAA has yet to rule on the appeal.
HE SAID IT
“I’m excited for our players, especially our seniors. When we came in after the Florida game, we’re sitting 1-4, and we said, ‘We’re going to make a bowl. How are we going to do it?'" Pruitt said. “We had one of those meetings. And those guys backed up what they said they were going to do.”
Tennessee: The Volunteers return home for their regular-season finale Saturday against Vanderbilt.
Missouri: The Tigers finish the regular season against Arkansas on Friday in Little Rock.
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