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After Mizzou hammers Vols, question with Butch Jones can’t be ‘if’ but ‘when’

Butch Jones Tennessee
Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

In a game that was supposed to feature Missouri’s potent passing attack against Tennessee’s stingy pass defense, the Tigers ran all over the Vols – literally.

A year after rushing for an eye-popping 420 yards against Tennessee, host Missouri surpassed that with 433 yards on 53 carries in a 50-17 rout Saturday that marked a fourth consecutive win for Barry Odom’s team and an 0-6 SEC mark for Butch Jones’ team.

For all practical purposes, this is Jones’ final team at Tennessee. It’s a matter of when – not if – Tennessee announces a change.

No way Jones can survive the carnage of a 4-6 start, a winless SEC record and the prospects of the program’s first eight-loss season. Only Tennessee and Ohio State have managed to avoid eight-loss seasons in college football. That’s in jeopardy with Tennessee, which faces LSU next Saturday before hosting Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale.

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A year ago, Tennessee’s defense was depleted by injuries, and it had little chance to stop a decent offense. It surrendered 400 rushing yards to Missouri, Alabama and Kentucky. That reason – or excuse – doesn’t resonate this season.

While improving its pass defense, Tennessee’s run defense ranks among the worst in school history, and almost 40 yards per game worse than last season. In 2016, UT allowed 218.5 rush yards per game. This year: 256.9.

Safe to say, Tennessee second-year defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who makes over $1.1 million per year, hasn’t earned his paycheck. In fact, he hasn’t been any better than Sal Sunseri, who failed miserably as UT’s defensive coordinator in 2012.

On a night when Missouri quarterback Drew Lock was victimized by seven drops – two that would’ve been touchdowns – Tennessee couldn’t take advantage because its run defense was deplorable. Still, Lock managed to throw four touchdown passes to run his nation’s-best total to 35.

Ish Witter (24 carries for 216 yards) and freshman Larry Rountree (18 for 155) combined for 371 yards against the Vols. And Missouri didn’t even have its best back. Damarea Crockett, who ran for 225 against UT a year ago, has missed the past month with a shoulder injury.

“Nothing we didn’t see coming, necessarily,” Tennessee linebacker Colton Jumper said. “Couple of big runs, couple of missteps. When their offense gets going, they’re hard to stop.”

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Yes, they are. The Tigers racked up 659 total yards – they had 740 last season against UT – and scored six touchdowns and three field goals on 15 possessions. The Tigers’ 1,399 total yards in back-to-back games against UT is a record for futility by a Vols defense.

About the only bright spot for the defense was a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by sophomore safety Nigel Warrior, who displayed some of the running skills of his father, Dale Carter, a former UT All-American defensive back.

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