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Offseason excitement falls into in-season realities

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There’s still a lot of season to play, and reason to find optimism, but this isn’t really the start you wanted from Missouri to start the season.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Sports force us to get carried away a lot.

So I’m going to approach this a couple different ways. I’m going to zoom in first, then zoom back out. Hopefully that helps us provide the right perspective. Hopefully.

Last night was awful.

After a dominant first quarter, the Tigers looked like a JV football team on defense, and even when they found momentum offensively, they shot themselves in the foot more than a team can handle.

At 14-0 we felt good, the drives were what you hoped— balanced and purposeful. The defense wasn’t flashy, but it held what appeared to be a limited Wyoming attack to 10 plays on 3 drives and just 23 yards.

Then the great unravelling began. Spurred by two penalties on a punt formation and a 17 yard return, Wyoming gained some momentum by marching down the field for a field goal. The Missouri defense held despite a 1st and goal at the 3, which at the time felt like a good omen. However, a Kelly Bryant fumble thwarted any good will and Mizzou looked completely out of sorts for the next quarter and a half.

Offensively

Kelly Bryant and the offense had no trouble moving the ball. They had 28 first downs to Wyoming’s 16, over 500 total yards of offense. But they weren’t explosive like you’d hope they could be, or like we’re used to seeing from this offense the last few years behind Drew Lock.

Bryan is a dynamic quarterback, capable of being accurate in the short and intermediate passing game. He’s a deft runner who presents a threat on that front as well. The drawback is the evolution of the Missouri offense without Drew Lock, the lack of a deep threat. Missouri’s run game was often so good the last few years because of the threat of a football sailing over your safety’s head for a touchdown on a go-route. Bryant doesn’t have the same threat, so the offense attempts to evolve into one more predicated on efficiency.

Efficiency is great when you don’t turn the ball over. I know this much from advanced basketball stats. Missouri had 13 possessions against Wyoming, three of which ended in turnovers, two of those turned directly into 10 points and the other killed a scoring opportunity inside the red zone and led to a touchdown. A 23% turnover rate in most sports will net you a lot of losses, particularly when those turnovers lead to points, and in Missouri’s case, they led to 17 points.

If only Larry Rountree III’s fumble at the goal line bounces a different way... maybe Missouri kicks the late field goal instead of Wyoming and they seize back momentum to end the first half. If only Albert Okwuegbunam had not pushed off leading to a penalty which resulted in an interception.

You can occasionally sustain turnovers if you’re forcing them as well, but a 0% turnover on defense? Well let’s call that bad. So let’s turn to...

Defensively

You have to expect better.

The overall progress defensively since Odom has been the head coach has been noted. From 84th year one, to 24th last year is a remarkable jump.

But this marks yet another disappointing defensive performance which is supposed to be the strength of the head coach. But defenses are often made on being disruptive, and last night Mizzou wasn’t at all.

  • Sacks: 0
  • Quarterback Hurries: 0
  • Interceptions: 0
  • Fumbles: 0
  • Tackles for Loss: 2

I’m sure Nate will be able to dive much more into this for the Beyond the Box Score, but I’m going to go with: This is bad.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Zooming out: It’s disappointing, but jarring and maybe in a good way. Our expectations — including my own — coming into the season hoped to wipe out the last 3-4 years of bad memories and focus on the good. This was a team that kicked the crap out of Florida on the road; it was also a team who looked awful against South Carolina and couldn’t muster a 1st down against Kentucky in the second half. It’s the same group who lost to Purdue 35-3 and in the same season got three SEC coaches fired.

I wrote the other day that Odom was 14-6 over his last 20 games, he’s now 14-7 over his last 21. Whether or not he is the best or right coach for Missouri will only be determined by what happens the rest of this year, and over the next two or three years. Odom has to improve his team’s preparation and their ability to be resilient in the moment. Because that’s what caught up to them last night. As soon as one or two negative plays happened, Wyoming snatched the momentum and Missouri struggled to capture it back.

The good news is, this season can still be a good and fun. But we were probably asking too much for it to be special. Maybe 2007 or 2013 is off the table, but it could still be 2008 or 2014. There is still a lot on the table for this team and they’re facing a weaker than expected division.

Georgia throttled Vanderbilt, Tennessee lost, South Carolina lost, Florida beat a mediocre Miami team, and Kentucky didn’t exactly look like gangbusters against Toledo. What we know at this point is Barry Odom isn’t an elite coach. I’m certain Craig Bohl is a better football coach right now. What I’m uncertain about is how much Odom can improve. He has all the makings of an excellent coach, but he’s still very young in his career. Bohl has been a head coach for 17 years, and at 61 years old I hope he’s a better coach than Odom is right now.

This has gotten longer than I expected it to be, but my take on this whole thing is nuanced. People may call me a Barry-stan, that’s fine. I believe he’s the right guy given the right timeline. But today our timelines are shorter than they used to be and the urgency is increased for this team.

He’s got to figure out the small things. The defense has to be better and more consistent and find ways to pressure the quarterback. The offense is fine to be efficient, but it also needs to be explosive. And they need to find a way to value the ball and create turnovers.

So 12-0 is off the table. Next week, it’s time to get back on the right path. West Virginia, Mountain mama, take me home.


Yesterday on Rock M


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