Missouri couldn’t overcome an early deficit and an enormous field position disadvantage in the 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl.
Following four consecutive three-and-outs by the offense and two blown coverages by the defense, the Tigers found themselves in a 14-0 first quarter hole. Mizzou’s high-flying offense was grounded. The defense returned to its undisciplined nature. Even Corey Fatony wasn’t punting like himself.
The horrendous opening ultimately doomed Missouri as it fell to Texas, 33-16. Unusually vanilla early play-calling, turnovers, and the punting of Michael Dickson made the Longhorns’ lead insurmountable.
While Barry Odom was disappointed in the loss, particularly because he wanted to send the seniors out on a high note, he managed to take away some positives.
“I think you always learn lessons from the good and from the bad,” Odom said. “The beginning of the year was tough on everybody, and we’ll use some of the things that we did down the last half stretch of the season to get us started getting into next year.”
Following a 1-5 start, few expected Missouri to end up in a bowl game at all. The season didn’t have a storybook ending, but the Tigers reeled off a six game winning streak and showed promise for the future.
Texas had plenty of help on the opening drive of the game, as the Mizzou defense committed three penalties for 40 yards. The Longhorns took advantage, driving 75 yards and scoring on a 22-yard pass from Shane Buechele to Daniel Young.
After three quick Missouri drives, Ehlinger hit John Burt, who tiptoed the sideline on a play-action pass for a 7-yard touchdown.
Going into the second quarter, Mizzou needed an answer, and fast. In his Texas homecoming and final game as a Tiger, J’Mon Moore proved up to the task. He hauled in two catches for 34 yards, including an incredible 19-yard grab over the middle, to set up a four-yard Ish Witter touchdown run.
After the defense got a stop, Missouri looked to be gaining momentum. Witter eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the season, and he seemed to hit a groove as he took three straight carries for positive yards. On the fourth straight rush, however, Witter fumbled and Anthony Wheeler returned it for a 38-yard score. He’s typically sure-handed — it was only the fourth fumble of his long career. But it could not have come at a worse time.
Albert Okwuegbunam made a catch and run for what appeared to be a first down on the next possession, but he lost the ball for a second straight Mizzou fumble. While the Longhorns couldn’t turn the second fumble into points, the turnovers were absolutely crushing for Missouri.
The Tigers found life on the first play of the third quarter as Johnathon Johnson burned the Texas secondary and Lock hit him in stride for a 79-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good due to a bad snap, and Mizzou trailed 21-13.
Missouri’s defense had settled in at this point, forcing Texas to punt eight straight times after Burt’s touchdown grab. The issue was that Dickson, who won the Ray Guy Award for being college football’s most outstanding punter, kept pinning the Tiger offense deep in its own territory. Ten of Dickson’s 11 punts fell inside the 20-yard line.
“Nope,” Barry Odom said when asked if he’d ever seen a punter impact a game like Dickson did. “I guess that’s why he won that award, right? He’s pretty good. The field position game and the way they can control it is pretty impressive.”
Mizzou managed to fight through the bad field position and put together a strong 16- play drive for 87 yards but was forced to settle for a 28-yard Tucker McCann field goal to make it 21-16.
The Tigers defense got another stop, but Dickson pinned the offense inside the 20 once again with another great punt. Missouri had managed to escape being backed up without a mistake all night, but that came to an end when Trystan Castillo snapped the ball over the head of Lock.
Lock didn’t appear to be looking when the ball was snapped, and scrambled to recover it, but ended up knocking it out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Mizzou had another stop in its hands in the fourth quarter, but DeMarkus Acy was called for roughing the passer after a third-down incompletion.
Acy jumped in the air before the throw and his momentum seemed to carry him into Ehlinger. The penalty was huge, as it lead to a Texas field goal that extended the lead to 10 with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
“If I was him I’d do the same thing,” Terez Hall said. “Honestly, I would have probably did it different. I would have went full speed and hit him and made him pay for it. It was basically perfect, and they just called a bad call.”
Missouri failed to score, and Texas drained over seven minutes off of the clock on the next drive. The Tigers received the ball at their own four-yard line with about three minutes left thanks to Dickson.
Lock threw a pick after a false start penalty, and that was it for Mizzou. Texas tacked on a late touchdown and a series of personal foul penalties, but the game was settled.
Many took issue with Texas coach Tom Herman going for the late touchdown and mocking Lock’s “secure the bag” celebration, but Lock is using it as motivation.
“When the head coach is mocking your dance move, you must be doing something right, you’re not a nobody, you’re definitely doing something that’s catching other people’s attention,” Lock said. “I’m gonna walk with my head held high and a little chip on my shoulder.”
Lock re-emphasized after the game that the outcome didn’t affect his decision on whether he’d declare for the draft. “If we would have come out here and scored 150 points on them it wouldn’t have made a difference,” Lock said. “I still have things to evaluate and still want to take in a little more information before the January 15th deadline.”
On Wednesday, Lock said the NFL’s Draft Advisory Council advised him to go back to school instead of entering the 2018 NFL Draft. The council gives three grades: first round, second round or a recommendation to return to college.
Lock completed 18 of 34 passes against Texas for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He finished the season with 3,964 yards, an SEC record 44 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
“It’s definitely gonna stem from my family,” Lock said. “It’s gonna stem on how the rest of these bowl games end up, and how the (quarterback) class ends up shaping. We’ll see how it all plays out.”