On November 20, 1999, Missouri delivered its most mailed-in performance I’ve ever been in attendance to see. The Tigers were down 35-0 to Kansas State after 12 minutes, and despite the Wildcats’ best efforts not to score, they still held Mizzou to 117 total yards and managed a 66-0 victory.
The humiliating loss capped a 4-7 campaign for Missouri and signaled the beginning of the end for Larry Smith; after back-to-back bowl appearances, he had earned some leeway, and he got it, but the writing was on the wall. And after a 3-8 campaign in 2000, the Tigers and new athletic director Mike Alden were looking for a new coach.
Barry Odom was a senior linebacker on Mizzou’s embarrassing trip to Manhattan in 1999. After memorable sophomore and junior campaigns, he battled injury and attrition and watched his team wither to nothing.
He’s been here before, in other words.
Eighteen years later, as head coach, he has not earned the luxury or leeway that Smith had earned. He is now just 5-10 as Missouri’s head coach. And while there’s no point in firing a coach three games into a season, Odom’s Tigers just delivered the most pathetic, feckless performance since that Saturday in Manhattan. They lost 35-3 to Purdue in a game that revealed one team that had an identity and vision and another that looked completely unprepared and uninterested.
In 10 years running this site, I’ve developed the reputation of a sunshine pumper, but really, all I’ve tried to deliver is perspective. Short-term perspective blinds us from what is actually good in the long-term. But there’s no sunshine pumping here. There was no fight, there was no tactical vision, there was minimal effort. It’s hard to imagine a team, or a coach, coming back from that.
Purdue didn’t even have to shift into second gear to build a lead. The Boilermakers dominated in trenches (where they hadn’t yet proven they were capable of dominating) and needed only basic offensive concepts — things Mizzou had to have seen on film — to move the ball at will. Missouri had no answer to things it had to have known was coming.
Simply put, Missouri mailed it in. There is nothing more damning than that.
This was pathetic, and a lot of well-paid coaches have to be embarrassed for letting this performance happen on their watch. They had no control over what their team did, and when you hit a low this low, there’s really no reason to think you’re going to rebound.
One thing Odom and company have going for them: it’s early. There’s no point in firing a coach three games into the season. So they get a few weeks to prove why they deserve to keep their job. But after what we saw today, there’s no reason to think they will succeed. This was exactly what “losing your team” looks like, and the odds of coming back from that are minimal. I’d love to be proven wrong. I doubt I will be.