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Missouri’s defense gets torched in 51-45 loss to Middle Tennessee

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri ran 104 plays for 629 yards, and there wasn’t a point in the second half where it looked like the Tigers had any control over the game.

Critical mistakes and penalties throughout Saturday’s contest stalled drive after drive for the Tigers and extended Middle Tennessee’s chances on offense. As a result, the Tigers fell, 51-45. After briefly taking a one-point lead early in the second half, Mizzou was playing catch-up with the Blue Raiders the rest of the way.

Drew Lock was 20-40 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. On the Tigers’ last drive in the final minute of the game, Lock targeted Sean Culkin three times and completed none. His final throw on fourth down fell short of Dimetrios Mason.

Backup Marvin Zanders did not see the field.

Lock’s counterpart, Brent Stockstill, took shot after shot from Missouri defenders and still managed to throw for 280 yards and four touchdowns. On the first drive of the game, Stockstill set the tone for the Blue Raider offense when he shot through the heart of the Tiger defense on a 63-yard run.

It was missed tackle after missed tackle and injury after injury for the defense. Michael Scherer went down on the first drive. John Gibson followed shortly after. Terry Beckner Jr. left in the second half. Marcell Frazier was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter. No one played really well, but when four starters leave the field, it’s a lot harder to stop the bleeding. Missouri never did.

There is one positive, however.

During the Florida game last week, it was evident that the Tigers had the ability to effectively run the ball. Josh Heupel clearly made that a point of emphasis Saturday, and Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter combined for 277 yards on 48 carries despite both dealing with injuries of their own. Crockett found the end zone four times.

More on Crockett tomorrow.

Missouri’s season was going to be defined by this four-game stretch of Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The easiest path to a bowl game was going 4-0 in those games. The postseason is now in serious jeopardy. Not only do the Tigers need to go 3-0 in the next three games, they now need to steal one, either on the road at Tennessee or, more likely, at home against Arkansas.

In our weekly, pre-game roundtable, we each discussed our favorite memories for Mizzou Homecoming games. The one game I went to was in 2013 against South Carolina, which the Tigers lost in heart-breaking fashion on a missed field goal, 27-24. But the game was compelling, the crowd was electric and despite the loss, the Tigers looked full of promise.

Today was anything but that.