Columbia, Mo. — Tennessee tailback John Kelly had a revelation while watching the Vols’ 29-26 loss at Kentucky while suspended two weeks ago.
“It was almost like they didn’t even need me,” said Kelly, who watched freshman Ty Chandler rush for 120 yards.
But make no mistake about it, Tennessee needs John Kelly tonight if it’s to beat a Tigers team that’s on a 3-game win streak.
Kelly returned last week to help lead the Vols to a 24-10 win over Southern Miss.
Kelly is one of only four players in the nation to lead his team in rushing and receptions. A junior from Detroit, Kelly has 694 yards rushing and eight TDs on 145 carries along with 27 catches for 250 yards.
Tennessee has at least three receivers injured and out for the game, and sophomore Marquez Callaway is listed as “questionable.”
Kelly’s ability to catch the ball will be big, too.
Missouri, with its warp-speed, SEC-leading offense, is favored by 10 points to beat the Vols at Faurot Field.
Tennessee will look to control the football as much as possible to keep the Tigers off the field, and that means the Vols will need to rely on Kelly to move the chains.
Kelly had 18 carries for 101 yards and a 27-yard TD in Tennessee’s 63-37 victory over Missouri at Neyland Stadium last year.
The game Kelly missed — a 29-26 loss to Kentucky — could haunt him.
Had the Vols won that game, Tennessee’s bowl outlook would be considerably better.
“Honestly it hurt me to miss the game,” said Kelly, who was suspended as a result of a traffic stop that resulted in a citation for possession of marijuana. “It was a big disappointment for my teammates, my family and everybody.”
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