Missouri had to come-from-behind; Missouri had to overcome mistakes; Missouri had to hang on.
Missouri won. Missouri (6-4, 2-4 SEC) beat Vanderbilt 33-28 on Saturday, becoming bowl-eligible for the second-straight season.
We saw what Perfect Missouri looks like last week. Perfect Missouri is 21 points better than a top-15 team on the road; that team, Florida, didn’t look great today, but came back from a 17-point deficit to beat South Carolina.
Today, we saw what Imperfect Missouri looks like. Imperfect Missouri turns the ball over twice. Imperfect Missouri doesn’t force a turnover. Imperfect Missouri gets gashed on the ground, missing tackles and losing containment, allowing Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn to run for 182 yards on 15 carries. Imperfect Missouri allows quarterback Kyle Shurmur to complete 14-of-17 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
Imperfect Missouri misses field goals that could ice games; Imperfect Missouri still has questionable coaching decisions, such as going for two early in the second half and looking ill-prepared to do so, needing to burn a timeout on the eventual failed attempt.
Three weeks ago, Imperfect Missouri lost a last-second game to Kentucky. Three games before that, Imperfect Missouri lost a last-second game to South Carolina.
Imperfect Missouri hung on and beat Vanderbilt. Despite all those mistakes, despite some impressive stat lines from Vanderbilt players, Missouri overcame an 11-point halftime deficit and scored 14 unanswered points to win a game.
Devine— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) November 10, 2018
@Coach_Odom becomes just the 4️⃣th coach in #Mizzou history to coach 2 teams to bowl eligibility in his first 3 years.
Coach Odom is now 8-2 in games in November. #MIZ #ShowMe pic.twitter.com/cnzD346cRa
Even if that doesn’t sound like good news, think of the players that did lead this comeback:
Receiver Dominic Gicinto caught four passes for 81 yards. Tight end Daniel Parker had three for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Both of those guys are true freshmen; hell, Daniel Parker was a defensive end until late August. And they made big plays when Missouri’s two usual weapons on offense — Emanuel Hall and Albert Okwuegbunam — were limited (Hall had three catches for 22 yards) or out (Okwuegbunam did not play).
Is Missouri the team that steam-rolled Florida or is it the team that did just enough to beat 4-6 Vanderbilt? It’s both — but it’s learning to win these games.
Missouri is two games away from its first eight-win regular season since 2014; the Tigers should be favored in those last two games.
Can you be a skeptic about Barry Odom or the future of Missouri football? Sure, absolutely. I’ve been a skeptic the last few years, and I’m still not entirely convinced — not that matters, anyway.
But now, after a rough middle-of-the-season swing, there are real signs of growth. We saw the first glimpse of Perfect Missouri a week ago; today, we saw the first win with Imperfect Missouri.
Both are good signs, in their own way.