It certainly isn’t the outcome we wanted but it could have been so much worse. The Tigers fought back several times before running out of steam on their final drive, and with the possibility that Connor Bazelak is hurt there are some bigger issues than just losing to an excellent conference opponent on the road. Regardless, here are the things that stood out to me:
The defensive front six is a problem
Chris Turner, Akial Byers, and Kobie Whiteside are all seniors. Trajan Jeffcoat was an All-American last year. They are currently non-factors. Yes, they occasionally get sacks, but more often than not, they get completely wiped out of the play. And Blaze Alldredge, Chad Bailey, and Devin Nicholson are not able to pick the correct gap to stop it. At this point, every opponent Missouri faces should just run it 50 times and try to make the Tigers stop them. I don’t know what the answer is or if it can be fixed, but until it is, this defense is going to suck.
#TightEndPassingGame is waking up
Daniel Parker, Jr. is known more for his blocking than his hands. Niko Hea had some flashes last year but nothing crazy. Against Kentucky, the two combined for 8 catches, 58 yards, and 2 touchdowns. It’s certainly not the same as the halcyon days of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, but DPJ and Hea were relaible targets that made a huge difference against Kentucky’s zone defense concepts. More of that, please.
Tyler Badie is the best player on this team
Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, when a play needs to be made, Tyler Badie is the guy this team is going to look to. Kentucky knew this was the case and Badie still had a great night. Without him this team is lost.
This team is resilient
The Tigers were down 21-7 with the Wildcats steamrolling down the field to inevitably go up 28-7. Jaylon Carlies knocked the snot out of the ball carrier, causing a fumble into the end zone that Mizzou recovered and turned into points.
At the beginning of the second half, Bazelak threw a bad ball for an interception and the Wildcats went up by 14.
With time winding down in the 4th quarter, Kentucky lined up for a field goal to go up by ten. Blaze Alldredge blocked the kick and Kris Abrams-Draine landed on it to set up the offense for one final drive.
In either case, previous Tiger teams under previous coaches would have crumpled and died. Not this group. They might be outgunned from a talent perspective but they will fight and scrap no matter what. Don’t overlook that. It might not always result in a W but it’s going to keep them in games and earn them chances to win. Long term, that’s very important.