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Mizzou Football rings in the new year on a bittersweet (but mostly bitter) note

Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

What if: the story of the 2018 season

A new sun is rising and a new calendar year is dawning on us all. There are quite a few things of more importance than football (and sports, as a whole), but you didn’t come to Rock M Nation to hear about them — you came to hear about why eveRYTHING SUCKS!

I kid, I kid. There’s obviously some reason to be a little disappointed this morning. After the best regular season finish since 2014, Barry Odom had a chance to lead his Tigers to win number nine in yesterday’s Liberty Bowl. And despite furiously dominating the fourth quarter, Missouri paid for its mistakes when it failed to come up with one last big play.

The final play of the Tigers’ 38-33 loss to Oklahoma State—and the final play of Lock’s career in a Missouri uniform—came up just a few links of the chain short. The failed fourth down conversion left the Tigers a few inches short of a first down, a few yards short of a game-winning touchdown and a few plays short of a special season.

There are a lot of things to criticize about Monday’s loss — ill-timed penalties, questionable coaching decisions, dropped passes and missed plays — but it would be short-sighted to change our final verdict on 2018 because of a bad bowl game. In the past month, Mizzou snagged the most coveted transfer quarterback on the market, hauled in one of its best recruiting classes in the past decade and locked in a coach that has Missouri football on the rise. As Vahe Gregorian points out:

Overall, this program is in fine shape and moving forward, and it bears mention that MU nearly pulled this off without five key offensive performers by night’s end — including running back Damarea Crockett and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam sitting out with injuries and receivers Emmanuel Hall, Jalen Knox and Dominic Gicinto all hurt in the game. The improvements in three seasons under Odom have been obvious, and there is a true foundation here if not a springboard.

Yes, 2018 will always be looked at as mildly disappointing. A record of 8-5 could have been 9-4, and the team could have even reached 10 and 11 wins. Barry Odom and Derek Dooley have earned renewed confidence from their fanbase, but they still have to make improvements moving forward. You can’t look at yesterday in a vacuum — you have to take the bad with the good.

And in the end, no one will take this loss harder than the seniors, including Drew Lock.

Later, fighting back tears at the team’s postgame news conference, Lock interrupted the bowl moderator to share some final words. He thanked Mizzou fans for four years of support and urged them to stick behind Odom. Minutes later, Lock visited with his family outside the team bus, holding his team offensive MVP trophy. In the huddle was super agent Tom Condon, a clear sign that Lock’s college days are now behind. This season is over. This career is over. The NFL is next.

We don’t know yet how the 2018 senior class will be remembered — either as the foundation of a special run or the pieces that couldn’t quite come together. But we can sure as hell be thankful we got to root for such a talented, dedicated group of True Sons that helped Missouri re-establish its national relevance.

More football links

  • For the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Anne Rogers wrote about Missouri’s lackluster day on defense, and Benjamin Hochman summarized the feeling of disappointment that ruled the day.
  • Peter Baugh at the Kansas City Star looked closer at Larry Rountree, who set the tone for a star-making junior season against Oklahoma State.
  • Gabe DeArmond wrote up his final thoughts on the bowl game (and the season overall.) They’re very good. Just do yourself a favor and ignore the message boards for a day or so if you don’t want to subject yourself to the hottest of hot takes.

Yesterday at Rock M

More Links:

  • Not much else was going on aside from football, so here’s our sister site Cowboys Ride For Free’s take on the game. It appears they were just as happy with some of the officiating as we were.
  • In SEC East news, Florida is losing a big piece on defense.