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This is Missouri’s worst pass defense in a long, long time

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5 thoughts from Missouri’s 53-28 loss to Georgia

NCAA Football: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

One side of the ball was better than I could have fathomed. The other side was so much worse. Here are some thoughts from an encouraging, discouraging Mizzou loss.

1. The beatings will continue until (defensive back) morale improves

The worst thing I can say about the secondary is that the I actually thought the front seven played pretty well. And Missouri still gave up 700 yards.

Let’s review the 5 most important Mizzou defenders list I posted back in June. These are the five players I felt absolutely needed to step up for the Tigers to avoid further defensive collapse in 2017:

  1. CB DeMarkus Acy
  2. DT Terry Beckner Jr.
  3. One of the JUCO DTs
  4. DE Marcell Frazier
  5. CB Christian Holmes

Beckner’s doing well — he’s not playing like an All-American or anything, but he’s been pretty good. And Rashad Brandon has been serviceable, too, as was Walter Palmore before injury. So (2) and (3) are at least somewhat covered.

Marcell Frazier has three tackles for loss in six games.

Christian Holmes hasn’t played a lick since suffering a preseason injury.

DeMarkus Acy looks every bit like the athletic true sophomore he is. He’s fast and intense. He also appears to get caught out of position constantly, which results in him over-exerting to catch back up, then getting killed by jukes and cutbacks.

In a way, it was unfair to call him the ‘most important defender’ considering his youth, but ... Mizzou’s cornerback situation required him to be good to very good. He’s not, at least not yet.

Neither are true freshman Adam Sparks or redshirt freshman Jerod Alton. The safeties are also having to fly in to try to save the day and are frequently falling victim to jukes, cutbacks, and incredible hurdles as well.

Simply put, this is the worst Missouri secondary I can remember. We knew it was possible, but we hoped for the best. That hope has not been rewarded.

Georgia's first nine carries on Saturday night gained 40 yards with a 33 percent success rate. The Tigers were dedicated to loading up on the interior and forcing UGA's freshman quarterback Jake Fromm to beat them, and as I wrote during the week, I felt that was the only possible strategy, even if it didn't work.

Yeah, it didn't work. Not even for a minute. Fromm started the game 13-for-16 for 203 yards. Cale Garrett made a lovely interception on UGA's second possession, but otherwise Fromm wasn't even tested — most of his 13 completions were to insanely wide-open receivers.

The pass rush was completely nonexistent, too, by the way. Definitely not the first time that’s been the case. On the first drive, he had all day and then some to find open receivers on third-and-5 and third-and-8; on the third drive, he completed balls on third-and-5, third-and-10, and third-and-11. He had time, and receivers were absurdly open.

Missouri demonstrated the blueprint for beating Georgia on Saturday: test the defense on intermediate and deep passes, render the Dawgs inefficient on the ground, and play competent pass defense. Unfortunately, the Tigers only went 1.5-for-3 (Georgia started inefficient on the ground even if it didn’t remain that way).

It’s hard to find hope here, at least for 2017. Adam Sparks isn’t going to suddenly have 10 more pounds on him, as he desperately needs. The experienced safeties (Anthony Sherrils, Thomas Wilson) aren’t suddenly going to discover better positioning, and the young guys (Ronnell Perkins et al) probably aren’t going to suddenly be ready. You could talk me into thinking the secondary can take a couple of steps forward in 2018, when Acy is more seasoned, Holmes is back, Sparks and redshirting Terry Petry have a little more bulk, and current freshman safeties like Jordan Ulmer and Tyree Gillespie are more ready to contribute. But for the rest of this season, things are how they will probably continue to be.

That’s a shame because it’s going to prevent us from getting a really good feel for how much the front seven is improving. I think it’s a decent amount. But it doesn’t matter if opponents don’t actually have to worry about running the football.

Missouri v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

2. Whatever, J’Mon

We’ve seen players like Terez Hall and others trying as hard as they can to bring some attitude and leadership to the table. That has included a little bit of jawing here and there.

Only J’Mon Moore is dumb enough to get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while doing it.

Moore got benched after his dumb first-quarter penalty and finished with just one catch for eight yards. Drew Lock still averaged over 10 yards per pass. If that doesn’t send a message, nothing will. But sending a message about maturity to a fifth-year senior is probably a lost cause anyway.

3. Mizzou might actually have senior leadership next year

Only two of Missouri’s four captains this year are seniors — Jordan Harold and Eric Beisel. They entered the game ninth and 10th on the team in tackles.

Ish Witter is doing everything he can. Jason Reese has three touchdowns, Moore has been semi-productive despite the ongoing battle with maturity, and despite his poor production, Frazier is still Missouri's best defensive end.

Beyond that, though? Sherrils has been replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Ronnell Perkins. Ditto left tackle Tyler Howell to Yasir Durant. Corner Logan Cheadle has ceded a lot of playing time to not-yet-ready Adam Sparks. Linebacker Joey Burkett has 7 tackles.

Tl;dr: The senior class has produced almost nothing in 2017. Unless you’re signing top-10 recruiting classes, you’re not going to get away with that in the SEC. We can talk about the reasons for why this senior class stinks, but the why doesn’t matter as much as the simple fact that it indeed stinks.

That might not necessarily be the case next year. Terez Hall, Drew Lock, Terry Beckner Jr. (if he doesn’t go pro, and at this moment I doubt he does), Emanuel Hall, Paul Adams, Corey Damn Fatony. Missouri will actually have senior leaders in 2018. Maybe that will make a difference. One can hope, anyway.

4. Postgame rants are great. Punting on fourth-and-1 speaks louder.

Really, Barry Odom? Punting on fourth-and-1 from midfield down 25 in the fourth quarter? I mean, I appreciate helping to assure that Mizzou covered and all, but hopefully that wasn’t actually part of your rationale there. That was a hell of a message to send to your offense (i.e. the only unit that’s shown up the last two weeks). Well done.

5. GET LOW, TACKLERS

The targeting rule is about getting low and not leading with your head. DeMarkus Acy got low but led significantly with his head last week against Kentucky, and he was ejected in the first quarter. Tavon Ross didn’t dramatically lead with his head during his fourth-quarter targeting penalty, but he also didn’t come close to getting low.

Gotta teach the rule. Mizzou defenders don’t appear to be learning it.

Check out Tramel Raggs’ postgame Facebook Live session from Athens:

Missouri's offense exploited cracks in Georgia's armor but the Bulldogs created holes in the Tigers as they won 53-28. Let the discussion begin

Posted by Rock M Nation on Saturday, October 14, 2017