This is what happens. When you fall to 2-3, even if all three losses have been competitive road losses to Top 20 teams, the negativity begins to seep in. Words like "woes" and "reeling" and "slump" start to pop up in headlines. And not only do you have to chase .500 for a little while, you have to do so with a lot more angst and frustration. Some teams turn things around -- Texas A&M lost to three Top 20 teams and started 3-3 last year, then rebounded ... and they looked much worse in their three losses -- and some do not. Missouri has shown plenty of promise in each of its three losses, but at some point, promise indeed has to turn into wins. To say the least, we will see what this team is made of in the coming weeks.
MUtigers.com: Tigers Fall Short Against No. 20 Wildcats, 24-17
MUtigers.com: Post Game Notes
The Trib: SEC least of MU's worries after loss at K-State
The Missourian: Bad habits exacerbated in Missouri football loss to Kansas State
KC Star: MU takes step back in 24-17 loss to K-State
KC Star: In most complete game of season, K-State beats Missouri 24-17
PowerMizzou: Tigers fall flat at K-State
PowerMizzou: Sunday Grade Card
Post-Dispatch: Kansas State holds off Mizzou
Post-Dispatch: Late rally falls short for Tigers
The Bright Side
I cannot possibly disagree with the headline of the above Missourian link. My goodness, it's hard to imagine the Missouri defense doing a better job overall. Collin Klein averaged 2.2 yards per carry and 5.5 yards per pass. Running back John Hubert averaged a healthy but unspectacular 4.8 yards per carry and really only saw sustained success on one drive -- he had eight carries for 43 yards in the drive that put KSU up 17-3, but Mizzou even had that drive until one of the dumbest roughing the kicker penalties of all-time. They forced KSU to make some plays (and at times, they did), and they held KSU to 4.2 yards per play overall. One of KSU's touchdown drives was 21 yards in length, and another was 42 yards after the aforementioned stupid penalty. Mizzou's mistakes killed them, but when they weren't making outright stupid mistakes, they were severely limiting KSU's capabilities.
Hey, speaking of which...
Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes
Three procedure penalties inside the 10 (one false start on the offense, two offsides on the defense).
A stare-down-and-throw-into-double-coverage interception.
Two more missed field goals.
Letting a punt bounce into the end zone even though two guys have a chance to down it inside the 5.
One amazingly stupid roughing penalty.
A personal foul penalty that gave KSU a first down and effectively ended the game.
Maybe in 2009, you could still beat Kansas State making these ridiculous mistakes. And lord knows, Mizzou came pretty close anyway. But KSU has improved just enough in 2011 to seal the deal if you let them.
What was perhaps most disconcerting was how many of the mistakes were made by seniors. Dominique Hamilton committed the game-ending penalty. Austin Wuebbels committed the false start and missed a couple of key blocks (he was not alone in that regard). Terrell Resonno also jumped offsides. Grant Ressel missed the two field goals (we'll come back to him).
Now, there were seniors who certainly played well. Jacquies Smith had three tackles for loss (and, admittedly, one of the offsides penalties). Luke Lambert had two more. Michael Egnew and Jerrell Jackson were targeted 16 times and caught 13 passes for 145 yards. (Everybody else: an egregious 6-for-19 for 69 yards.) Egnew and Jackson were very instrumental in Mizzou's comeback, which was encouraging after their awful performances in Norman. But their improvement was not enough to make up for everybody else's mistakes.
(It's a shame, really: Mizzou's performance versus Oklahoma would probably have been good enough to beat K-State. Flip those two games -- play worse and get blown out against Oklahoma, play better and beat Kansas State -- would have Mizzou in better shape.)
What To Do About Ressel
His 48-yarder could have beaten Arizona State. His two 46-yarders could have completely redefined the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma game. His 43- and 37-yarder could have given Mizzou a chance to tie in the fourth quarter against Kansas State. He is still 6-for-7 on field goals under 40 yards, but ... the difference between the Grant Ressel we expected to get and the one we currently have could be the difference between 2-3 and 4-1. It's not like Mizzou has another strong kicker waiting in the wings (few teams have more than one), so we will continue to hope Ressel pulls it together. But wow, is it a helpless feeling watching him continue to try and come up short.
More thoughts during the upcoming BTBS post...