Missed tackles, missed opportunities, and missed assignments.
It’s easy to blame the referees for Missouri’s 43-29 loss to the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs Saturday afternoon, but the Tigers played an incredibly sloppy game.
Although Missouri blocked a field goal with six minutes left in the fourth quarter and trailed by just 11, it hardly felt like they were in the game. Countless turnovers, a blocked punt, and poor secondary play late attributed to the Tigers’ demise.
“The most frustrating part of this one was that I think we beat ourselves,” quarterback Drew Lock said. “Georgia’s a good football team, but the Missouri Tigers beat themselves today... We gave them two touchdowns.”
Missouri corner Christian Holmes ripped a pass from a Georgia receiver for a turnover in the game’s very first possession, building some momentum early for the Tigers. The offense was driving down the field when Lock found Albert Okuwegbunam on an out route. The tight end muscled his way to the first down marker, but fumbled. A Georgia defender found himself in the end zone shortly after.
Early in the second quarter, wide receiver Johnathon Johnson was wide open in the middle of the field on a dig route. Lock hit him in stride, but Johnson let it through his hands, as the ball bounced off his chest and right into a Georgia defender’s hands.
As if those two plays weren’t enough of a dagger, Tucker McCann had a field goal that was ruled a miss; but upon looking at the replay, it seemed like it should’ve been good. To add to that, Georgia receiver Mecole Hardman seemed to have dropped a ball prior to crossing the goal line on a 54-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter.
It was just one of those days.
Missouri’s defense, to the surprise of many, looked stout in the first half, allowing just six points and no touchdowns to the Georgia offense. They clogged up gaps, stepped up in crucial third down situations, and limited Jake Fromm’s production.
Then the second half rolled around.
Running lanes got bigger and Fromm picked on a weak Missouri secondary. He completed two long touchdown passes — one for 61 yards and the other for 54.
Lock’s achilles’ heel throughout his career has been games against ranked teams. His stat-line may not show it, but he did everything he could, as Georgia’s secondary played a very solid game.
The Missouri receivers dropped passes, receivers couldn’t get open (Emanuel Hall was held catch-less by Georgia’s star corner Deandre Baker), and Lock was pressured throughout. With that being said, throwing for 221 yards isn’t too shabby against one of the nation’s better defenses.
“There’s not a quarterback in the country I’d rather have than Drew Lock,” head coach Barry Odom said in a press conference following Saturday’s loss.
For as many negatives there are to take away from this game, there are just as many positives. Missouri’s front seven, especially Terry Beckner Jr, played an impressive game. Although the second half wasn’t their best, they showed in the first half they’re capable of getting pressure on the quarterback and snuff runs up the middle against any team.
“[The defensive line] played a whole lot better,” Beckner said. “Week by week, we get a whole lot better and it paid off a little bit today.”
On a day where the Tigers made stupid mistakes, gave up a special teams touchdown and couldn’t get it clicking on offense, somehow, they hung in there tough with the second-best team in the nation. They showed a lot of heart throughout, never giving up until the final whistle.
“We’ve fought back from worse,” Lock said. “1-5 is a lot worse than 3-1 right now.”
A year ago (before the winning streak), you wouldn’t see that from Missouri. Going into two pivotal games against South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama, that attitude will be a major factor in how well this team keeps itself composed in its two toughest road games of 2018.
With SEC play officially underway as well, it’s promising that such a sloppy game as this one still kept the Tigers within reach. It’s a solid sign to how talented this team really is.
“If we play our A-game, there’s no doubt in my mind we can compete with anyone in the country,” Lock said. “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.”
Two of the more talented players on Missouri’s offense — running backs Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III — saw their slow starts to 2018 come to an end, with a nice contribution from true freshman Tyler Badie to add on top of it. All three had a rushing touchdown, as they combined for 150 yards rushing on 33 carries (4.55 ypc). Crockett ran for 67 yards, Badie for 50, and Rountree for 33.
“I just kind of feel like we had a fire about us,” Crockett said. “You know, coming out knowing we’re going to play a good team, we just knew we had to take responsibility to get the ball down the field and get drives going.”
Another good sign for Missouri was that they didn’t get “out-athlete’d”. There weren’t any glaring plays to where a corner got burned down the field (missed tackles and assignments led to some long touchdowns), and the battle at the line of scrimmage was extremely even throughout.
The Tigers have the talent to be able to compete with anyone in the country if everything is clicking, but road trips to Columbia (S.C.) and Tuscaloosa will prove just how much Missouri can accomplish this season.