The Missouri Tigers actually managed to score 20 points on Saturday night, which should be considered an offensive explosion compared to the last couple of weeks. But even that wasn’t enough to snap a four-game losing streak in a 24-20 loss. Unfortunately, that is just the way things are going with this team right now, and it is painful to watch.
A pair of 5-5 teams squared off at Faurot Field on Missouri’s Senior Night, though it was clear that it was a matchup between two teams heading in opposite directions. This was a completely different Tennessee team that Missouri beat 50-17 two seasons in a row. The Vols came into the game winners of three straight and four out of their last five while playing with bowl eligibility on the line. And they certainly played like it. Missouri had plenty to play for as well, but ultimately couldn’t match what their opponents brought.
On the defensive side, it was clear that the secondary missed DeMarkus Acy, as Jarrett Guarantano threw for a career-high 415 yards. And for the first time in Tennessee program history, the Volunteers had three receivers with 100-plus yards in a single game: Josh Palmer with 124, Jauan Jennings with 115, and Marquez Callaway had 110.
Not having Albert Okwuegbunam and Johnathon Johnson certainly didn’t help the offense either, but the unit did show some signs of life in this one. Missouri’s first touchdown of this game snapped a streak of 32 consecutive drives without one (the longest active streak in FBS... sigh). Not to mention he Tigers actually led in this game for the first time since October 12th against Ole Miss. None of that was enough for a win in a game the Tigers desperately needed to have, though.
For the third time in Barry Odom’s short regime, Missouri is on a five-game losing streak. It is harder to see him recovering from this one, though, because this streak — in my opinion— it is the most damaging of his career, despite the fact that each of the previous ones also contained head-scratching losses.
In Odom’s first season, the losing streak went from LSU, Florida, and Middle Tennessee to Kentucky and South Carolina. One could pinpoint the Homecoming game loss against Middle Tennessee as the one that ultimately changed the season; it likely kept them from a bowl appearance.
In Odom’s second season, the losing streak took place against South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia. The 35-3 home loss to Purdue felt like rock bottom at the time, but Odom certainly deserves some credit for that second half turnaround, albeit with an incredibly easy schedule.
There’s no turnaround this time. After much of the fan base thought Barry Odom had finally turned the corner after the Ole Miss victory, the loss to Vanderbilt happened, and for whatever reason, Missouri couldn’t find the offensive rhythm they had established earlier. With no offense, the defense eventually caved in loss after loss, submarine-ing any chance for that classic “Odom November Turnaround.” Loss after loss, the interest in this fan base dwindled rapidly. Losses to teams not named Florida or Georgia on this schedule certainly were to blame for that.
It only took a month, but Missouri went from a New Year’s Six bowl-potential team to a team that many fans (especially if you read the good ol’ internets) don’t even want to see play in a bowl game, even if they do get there.
As for the future of this program, Barry Odom may very well be coaching for his job on Friday against Arkansas. But maybe that was already at stake on Saturday, because what is a win over a 2-9 team to only get to 6-6 exactly going to accomplish?
Of course, only Jim Sterk knows this, but Odom’s fate may have actually been determined on Saturday night. The loss to Tennessee just may have been writing on the wall. We will have to wait and find out when this season comes to its disappointing conclusion.