COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The first time Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz spent serious time with Cody Schrader was after the walk-on running back arrived on campus, gambling that the talent that made him a Division II star would transfer to college football's highest level.
On Saturday night, it produced one of the finest games in school history.
Schrader ran for 205 yards and a touchdown, caught five passes for 116 yards and led the No. 16 Tigers to a 36-7 rout of No. 14 Tennessee that ended a four-game losing streak in the series.
“One of the things that gets lost in his story is he’s a talented player," Drinkwitz said. “He has this stubborn refusal to quit.”
Schrader’s 321 yards from scrimmage were 12 shy of the school record set by Devin West in 1998.
“The whole recipe of this whole thing is work,” Schrader said. “You have to be able to hit a person in the mouth for four quarters, and either they're going to fold or I'm going to fold. And I'm determined not to fold.”
Schrader had plenty of help. Brady Cook shredded the Vols for 275 yards passing and accounted for two TDs. Luther Burden III had a touchdown reception that basically sealed the outcome, and Daylan Carnell closed it out for the Tigers (8-2, 4-2 SEC, No. 14 CFP) with a 38-yard pick-6 against one of their biggest nemeses.
The Volunteers (7-3, 3-3, No. 13) had outscored them 128-48 in their two games with coach Josh Heupel on the sideline.
“This is the first time I beat them since I've been here,” Tigers cornerback Jaylon Carlies said. “This is a huge one for us.”
Missouri’s win clinched the SEC East for No. 1 Georgia before it even took the field against No. 10 Ole Miss on Saturday night. The Bulldogs will face eighth-ranked Alabama in the conference title game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.
The Vols' Joe Milton III threw for 267 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Missouri. But he got little help from a penalty-prone offense and one of the nation's best running attacks, which finished with 83 yards on 23 carries.
The Vols prefer to run plays quicker than a blink, and that high-octane offense usually leads to some gaudy numbers. But when the Tigers forced equally quick punts, the Tennessee defense exhausted itself with long stretches on the field.
Missouri prefers to play quickly, too. But it controlled the ball instead, holding it for all but 1:45 of the first quarter and more than 21 minutes of the first half. That further exhausted the Tennessee defense and resulted in a 13-7 halftime lead.
It should have been 10-7 — or closer — but the Vols' Jaylen Wright fumbled in Missouri territory with 20 seconds left. Schrader promptly ran for 35 yards and, after two more plays, Harrison Mevis kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
Missouri ran 42 plays for 300 yards in the half; Tennessee ran 23 for 201.
“It's still a one-possession game,” Heupel said. “Got to be willing to come out and play hard and we didn't get that done.”
Indeed, the Tigers extended their lead with an 80-yard touchdown march in the third quarter, then took advantage of a dropped pass by Tennessee and personal foul on the Vols' Omarr Norman-Lott to add a field goal a few minutes later.
The Vols had a chance to make a big stop to start the fourth quarter, when the Tigers were leading 22-7 and facing third-and-10 at their own 1. But when Cook rolled out, he saw a yawning gap in the Vols' defense and ran 24 yards for a first down.
That was costly. This was costlier: When the Vols did get the ball back, Milton had his throwing arm knocked by one of his own teammates. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but replays showed it was a fumble and recovery by Missouri, giving Schrader and Co. the ball back with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
The Tigers added Burden's touchdown catch to make it 29-7, and Carnell's interception got the party going at Faurot Field.
“End of the day,” Heupel said, “you’re going to have to live with this one for a while.”
Tennessee will look back on the momentum-changing field goal it allowed just before halftime and too many mental mistakes in the second half. The Vols were penalized nine times for 95 yards in the game.
Missouri lost leading tackle Ty'Ron Hopper to an injury in the first half, but everyone else stepped up. The Vols had a season-best 650 yards on offense in a 59-3 rout of UConn last week but were shut down on Saturday night.
Tennessee takes on Georgia at Neyland Stadium next Saturday.
Missouri plays its home finale against Florida next Saturday night.
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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football