Though it seems much of the Missouri fanbase has lost faith in the state of the program, the players and Coach Odom, while aware of their shortcomings, have not.
The Tigers were nearly perfect in the first half of the season, going 5-1. They quickly patched the holes from the Wyoming loss and rattled off five straight wins at home. And then they went on the road. Missouri hasn’t found itself in the win column since, unable to score more than 14 points in any of the following four contests.
A win over Florida would have been huge for Missouri. It would have been their best win of the year and made them bowl-eligible... NCAA appeal still pending. And they kept it close enough for a half to give the team and the announced 52,000-plus fans in attendance some hope.
Missouri’s run defense had a perfect game, holding Florida to 52 yards rushing on 29 attempts and featured five sacks. A big part of that was the play of Kobie Whiteside and Jordan Elliot. Whiteside was the man of the first half. The junior had two sacks and four tackles. “I just got done telling my teammates, it’s not from me, it’s God,” he said. “I came in, said what I was gonna do today and God blessed me with it.”
Elliot, the Redshirt Junior, had one of the aforementioned sacks and finished the game with four tackles. “We’re a family. Each game, lose or win, we always gonna stick together, no matter what. That’s one thing about this team that’s different from other teams that I’ve been around. Through adversity, that’s what makes us closer,” he said.
Linebacker Nick Bolton talked about how the defense’s playmakers need to make plays when the opportunity presents itself, acknowledging his own dropped potential interception.
“We just gotta find ways to get the football back to our offense in good field position and help them score,” he said.
The Missouri secondary had opportunities to create turnovers, including a highly controversial review in the third quarter. Florida Quarterback Kyle Trask took a deep shot downfield to tight end Kyle Pitts, and the ball was wrestled away by Missouri safety Khalil Oliver as the two went to the ground. Despite Oliver walking away with the ball, the call on the field was ruled a completion for Pitts. A short review confirmed the call and was met with booing from the crowd.
“I’ve got strong judgment and faith and conviction that the SEC makes the right calls. It went to replay, it went to review, and they saw it differently than I did,” Odom said. “Their definition of a tie and mine are different, I guess. Cause I don’t think the receiver ever had complete control of the ball to make and secure the catch. I saw it differently.” He continued, “I would like for it to have gone my way, but it happens.”
In spite of the fourth consecutive loss, Oliver still sees a bounce-back coming. “I don’t see anybody holding their heads down. We knew what happened and we’re gonna watch the film and get better. There’s no ‘season’s over’ there’s none of that,” Oliver said. “We’re not gonna sit here and cry and ‘woe is me.’ We’re gonna come back tomorrow and get better.”
Missouri continued its struggles in finding an identity on offense. Kelly Bryant acknowledged the offensive woes and current losing streak, “We just hit a little bump in the road right now, it’s just a little adversity. We just gotta find a way to get back on track. It’s easier said than done. We just gotta not hurt ourselves when we on out there.”
The Offensive Line gave Bryant time in the pocket often, but he struggled to find an open receiver. “Sometimes there’s gonna be plays like that, where guys go free and you gotta put it on em’. But when a guy’s not open, you just gotta try and buy a little time,” Bryant said. “Knowing when to fold your hand and not try and be greedy.”
During the losing streak, it seems like many fans have lost hope in the team. But this group isn’t doubting their ability to turn it around. Despite the recent poor play, the remaining two games seem winnable. Regardless of the opponent, this team says that it’s ready for adversity. Now it’s up to them to show some fight and salvage the final two games.