I feel like I’ve watched enough football to know when I see good and bad football. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team play both good and bad football to such an extreme as we’ve seen from Missouri this year.
I’ll contend to the end the Wyoming game was flukey, but it did happen and it tarnished how many felt so early in the season. But then the Missouri team we expected this season showed up in a big way and were as dominant of a football team as there was in the country. They were beating some bad teams, sure... but they were dominating them in big ways.
It wasn’t until Ole Miss where a few cracks started to show. But last week against Vandy, and last night against Kentucky, those weren’t cracks. The gaping hole Lynn Bowden Jr. ran through which we used to refer to as the Missouri defensive line, is a more apt description.
For five games when the defense needed a break, the offense found a way to answer the bell. They were able to put together long drives by mixing and matching play calling, and Kelly Bryant looked every bit like the quarterback we’d hoped he would be. The running game was strong, and Bryant was able to spread the ball around. Things weren’t perfect, but they were good enough.
Furthermore, when the offense skidded, the defense was able to make the right play or get the right stop, or force the right turnover.
When you lose a Cale Garrett, the question was how much would it affect the defense? Garrett was a playmaker who had scored as many touchdowns defensively as any offensive player (well, nearly), and you can’t lose a guy like that without suffering some drop off. But the defense should still be good, right? After all, there were still 10 other starters.
As it turns out, not good enough to compensate for the the emerging issues on offense. Missouri’s defensive line, long thought of as the strength of the program, is now a shell of itself. Boosted only by the play of Jordan Elliot. Missouri’s defensive ends struggle to get to the quarterback, and don’t hold the line of scrimmage enough. The defensive tackles not named Elliot aren’t able to force enough pressure up the middle, and far too often allow blockers to get to the second level, forcing linebackers and the secondary to clean up the run plays.
It worked enough because Garrett and Bolton were up to the task. Without Garrett, Bolton has been really good, but the play of Cameron Wilkins and Devin Nicholson has just been ok. And with the offensive struggles, that’s not enough.
I don’t want to pick on the defense too much, because it’s clearly difficult to win when you’re only scoring 21 points in two games. Kentucky’s SP+ ranking heading into the game was 50th, and Vanderbilt’s was 86. What’s worse is Kentucky’s SP+ rushing ranking was 96... and to infuriate you even more, the Tigers had a fair amount of early success running the ball, but then went away from it. On their second possession, Missouri went 15 plays for 64 yards while running the ball 11 times and throwing four times (with just 2 completions for 16 yards), plus one holding penalty.
So the next possession? Run, pass, pass, run, pass, punt. Then, run, pass, pass, punt. Then pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, punt. Then, pass, pass, pass, fumble. So on the ensuing three possessions going into the half, against the 96th ranked run defense in the country, Missouri’s mix of plays were: 3 runs, 13 passes, 1 turnover, three punts. It wasn’t until Bryant was pulled did Derek Dooley finally start to lean on the run again. On Powell’s first possession they had a 12 play drive with 7 rushes.
It’s just hard to explain. Even harder, was Tyler Badie’s lack of touches. Badie had six rushes and two catches for 113 yards. Missouri as a whole had 289 yards. On 63 plays.
When you win, everyone is happy. Guys don’t worry about touches, or snaps, or who scored. Everyone celebrates in the same locker room. When you lose, who is and isn’t pulling their weight starts to become a lot more noticeable. Then you have post game interviews that end with guys saying something like this:
#Mizzou OL Trystan Colon-Castillo says the Tigers had a great week of practice, but it's off the field stuff that is holding the team back.— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) October 27, 2019
"Some of us aren't taking care of our business outside of the facility."
: https://t.co/33nmn0n2OO pic.twitter.com/qZG5Hhahjr
Missouri is a weird team. I’m not sure they can play worse than they did against Kentucky and Vanderbilt (maybe they can, but I sure don’t want to watch THAT after watching the last two weeks). What we’ve all realized over the last couple weeks is just how much lower the floor is for this team than we previously thought. I mused on twitter towards the end of the game that perhaps Drew Lock was a good enough quarterback who masked these very real problems with the line play. Maybe his ability to put the ball where it needed to be covered up a pretty mediocre receiving corps. And that ability gave us a false sense of security coming into this season.
Missouri has to win out to meet my 9-3 prediction. I don’t think that’s going to happen, not remotely. There is no point of reference for this team playing well enough on the road to be competitive, much less win against a top 10 or 15 team like Georgia. Barry Odom has two weeks to figure his psychotic team out and put a product on the field Missouri fans can be proud of. They had it for little bit, but it’s time to get it back.
No box today, there’s no point because it was trash and Statbroadcast was password protected at Kentucky, which is stupid.
Other SEC Scores:
- Alabama 48, Arkansas 7
- LSU 23, Auburn 20
- Texas A&M 49, Mississippi State 30
- Tennessee 41, South Carolina 21
Yesterday at Rock M Nation:
- Missouri vs Kentucky football GameDay: info, where to watch, predictions
- Bottoms Up! What are you drinking for Mizzou vs. Kentucky?
- GAME THREAD: Missouri looking for first road win against Kentucky
- Stagnant Missouri gets exposed by Kentucky, 29-7
- Five takeaways from Mizzou’s backbreaking loss at Kentucky
- Mitchell Forde’s post-game video
- Dave Matter’s game story
- KCStar’s NEW beat writer Souichi Terada’s Game Story
- Columbia Missourian Bennett Durando’s game story
- If you’re looking to sign up for ESPN+, Rock M Nation now has an affiliate link: click Here for ESPN+ Now!
- Also, a heads up: The FanPulse emails should be out by now, if not now they will be soon. I’ll be looking forward to our ‘Fan Confidence’ part of it. Wondering if it will be lower than after week one?