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Drew Lock’s performance a positive from Missouri’s loss to West Virginia

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Missouri’s starting quarterback looked the part despite the result.

NCAA Football: Missouri at West Virginia
Drew Lock threw 51(!) passes against West Virginia
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

For a good chunk of Saturday’s season-opening loss at West Virginia, Drew Lock looked like the guy Mizzou fans hoped for when the Tiger legacy committed to the program in April 2014.

Lock posted a career-best 280 yards during an often ugly 26-11 loss to the Mountaineers. He wasn’t perfect, but he’s far from the reason as to why the game turned out the way it did. Josh Heupel’s up-tempo offense allowed for quick passes and appeared to help Lock.

After a shaky first quarter, Lock settled into a groove in the second. He appeared to develop a good rapport with the game’s top receiver J’Mon Moore, which included a perfectly placed ball down the field for a gain of 42 yards. Lock hit Moore in the hands later on in the quarter, but Moore couldn’t reel it in.

That was the best we’ve seen of Lock. The commentators on Fox Sports 1 raved about the arm talent that he had and pointed to the “zip” of Lock’s spiral.

Things got interesting after that. Lock was playing the best football of his young career when the coaching staff yanked him for Marvin Zanders in the middle of a drive. I’m all for Zanders getting on the field, and I think he deserves to have a chance to lead a drive or two per half. But Lock is the guy, and I was really puzzled for the quarterback change in the middle of a series when the Tigers were driving.

That could have taken some wind out of Lock’s sails, as he couldn’t reach the peak he was at in the second half.

When the game was pretty much out of hand, Lock found Chris Black for the Tigers’ lone touchdown of the day. Black joined Moore for receivers who topped 100 yards. I can see Black being a bigger part of the offense moving forward.

One of the two big takeaways I saw from the offense as a whole was the wide receivers’ ability to get open. The group didn’t have its best day, and Lock wasn’t completely on the money, but it’s clear that the position has the speed to create separation. There were times that Dimetrious Mason, Johnathon Johnson and Emanuel Hall all had a step on the defender, but the timing wasn’t there.

That’s going to change as Lock develops more chemistry with the speedy youngsters. Having really fast guys who are still learning the position is a much more solvable problem than having receivers who can’t get open.

Regarding the chemistry: Lock could have spent every second of his summer with his receivers, and they still wouldn’t be on the same page 100% of the time. Game reps are more valuable than 7-on-7’s. This is still a very young team, and going on the road to a raucous environment at West Virginia is not an easy task, even for a veteran squad.

As much as I preferred, as a college football fan, starting the season against a Power 5 school, it would have done Lock and this offense wonders to start off with a lesser opponent. With that said, I’d expect a crisper performance from the offense as a whole next week against Eastern Michigan. There’s plenty of good to build on.