After the rest of the team left the practice field Tuesday morning, Drew Lock stayed.
Lock and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley conversed for a few minutes, while Dooley gave his quarterback a few encouraging pats on the helmet. They’re hyper-focused on this week’s match-up with No. 1 Alabama, but first, Dooley needs Lock to relax and not blame himself for last week’s loss to South Carolina.
“Drew puts a lot on himself,” Dooley said to Missourian reporter Brendan Lavell. “Everybody’s got these expectations. Everybody gets analyzed.”
Lock was hyped up to be one of, if not the, top quarterback prospects for next year’s NFL Draft. Through three games, those expectations seemed to be fair. In his last two games against South Carolina and No. 2 Georgia, it’s been a different story. He’s fallen well out of the Heisman talks, going a combined 40-for-84 (47.6 percent) for 425 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Missouri gunslinger hasn’t gone back-to-back games without a touchdown pass since October of 2016, where the Tigers played on the road against No. 13 LSU and No. 14 Florida.
Lock has always been one of the first to admit he puts a lot of pressure on himself to win football games for Missouri. He stressed in Tuesday’s press conference that he’s especially hard on himself after losses — especially this year — because he knows the talent surrounding him is better than it’s ever been and he doesn’t want to let them down.
Head coach Barry Odom said it’s not just Lock that gets like that after losing, but the rest of the team as well. According to him, that’s not a bad thing.
“I know their hearts, minds and souls are in the right spots,” Odom said when asked about the locker room after Saturday’s loss to South Carolina. “I don’t want to lose games, but that’s the way it’s supposed to look [after a loss].”
Previous Missouri teams didn’t seem faltered much one way or another after losses. Tough ones like the 2016 loss at home to Georgia stung a little more than usual, but still, this team’s composure, confidence and toughness are insurmountably better than the last couple seasons.
Lock reflected this in a press conference following Missouri’s loss to No. 2 Georgia this year: “If we play our A-game, there’s no doubt in my mind we can compete with anyone in the country. That’s something I believe in my soul, and I think that’s why this loss hurts way worse than any loss last year... Because I truly think we can beat anyone we want to.”
Sometimes when players say stuff like that, they’re just blowing smoke up reporters’ asses. But this Missouri team isn’t threatened by Alabama.
“You know, everybody’s ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to play Alabama, we’re gonna-’ You know, man, take a deep breath, it’s another game; it’s a football game,” running back Damarea Crockett said in an interview with ABC-17 KMIZ Tuesday. “They’re human. They’re not cyborgs or terminators... They definitely are a great football team — disciplined, they execute very well and they’re not going to make very many mistakes. So we’re just going to have to make sure that we do the same thing.”
Straight business. Missouri isn’t daunted by Alabama one bit.
“You can leave your sharpies at home. No asking for autographs this week,” Lock said. “Their defensive line is good, but our offensive line is really good, too.”
Odom stressed he’s not going to treat this week much differently than he would any other week. While some may say that’s the wrong way to go about preparing for Alabama, this allows Missouri to not get overly stressed out about playing in Bryant-Denny and facing the beast that is the Crimson Tide.
If Lock can allow himself to relax and be himself, as well as the Tigers not being awe-struck about playing on the road against the nation’s top team, Saturday’s primetime game could be a lot closer than some predict.
When Missouri takes care of the ball and executes to their game plan, they’re a tough team to beat. The players know it, the coaches know it and Nick Saban knows it. We’ll see if that confidence translates to the gridiron come Saturday.