I’m having flashbacks to 2015.
No, not the off-the-field situation. I would prefer not to relive that. But Mizzou’s on-field product is looking awfully familiar.
You remember that team. They started the season 4-1 with a win against South Carolina in Drew Lock’s first career start after Maty Mauk had been dismissed from the program. The defense was among the better units in the country. The offense couldn’t get anything going.
And the season was torpedoed as a result.
A 4-1 start was followed by a 1-6 finish, and a 5-7 season overall. The defense fought, but the offense never gave the defense a chance. The season unraveled uncontrollably.
Watching the last three weeks, it’s hard not to look back on that season and feel like we’re living some sort of sick and twisted deja vu.
Mizzou started the season 5-1. The Tigers have lost three-straight with a matchup coming up against Florida and on deck is a Tennessee team that’s won four of its last five games.
Things could spiral quickly. Again.
I hope you know by now that I’m the last person to sound the alarm. I called this the most likable Mizzou team in years. I wrote about how Mizzou was good before the polls showed them the respect they deserved. Of note - there was a time not that long ago Mizzou was legitimately good.
Oh, and I wrote an open love letter to Derek Dooley. Whoops. (editor’s note- it was a really lovely letter)
I don’t take any solace in saying this might be headed in a very similar direction to what we saw in 2015.
That team - much like this one - came into the season with high expectations. Heck, that team was even ranked in the initial AP top 25! The Tigers were coming off back-to-back SEC East division titles with the promise of at least competing for a third.
The defense lived up to its end of the bargain. They allowed more than 21 points in a game just twice all season. SEC foes averaged just 19 points per game against the Tigers’ D. Kentrell Brothers emerged as a second-team All-American.
But the offense went off the rails after Mauk was dismissed and Lock was forced into action before he was ready.
There is one key difference, of course. I can point to exactly what flipped the script for Mizzou in 2015. It all really started with Mauk’s downfall at Missouri.
I still don’t know what went wrong for this team.
It’s inexplicable. Mizzou was legitimately good the first six games of the season! The Tigers’ offense scored 31, 38, 50, 34, 42 and 38 points in those six contests. The offense was humming. The defense was playing lights out.
And now they’ve scored a 21 points in their last three games combined.
What the heck happened?
Is it as simple as Kelly Bryant’s injury limited him more than any of us knew? Did something happen behind-the-scenes that we’re not aware of? Is Mizzou simply incapable of playing away from Memorial Stadium?
I have no idea. I don’t know if we’ll ever know the true answer to that question.
Whatever the explanation, things have gone downhill in a hurry. There’s really no possible way for this to go down as a successful season, but it doesn’t have to be remembered as a disaster.
There’s only one way to prevent that.
The Tigers have an opportunity over the next three weeks to keep this train on the tracks. The next two games are at home where Mizzou has been respectable all season.
If ever there was a time for Barry Odom to rally the troops, it’s now. The only people who can prevent the 2015-esque spiral from continuing is the players in that locker room.
Here goes nothin’.