It had the makings of an instant classic. It was reminiscent of Eli Drinkwitz’s signature victory against LSU.
And then everything fell apart.
The Tigers lost a heartbreaker in overtime at Boston College by a final score of 41-34. That’s the headline. The meat and potatoes of the game was somehow more demoralizing than the score itself.
The offense was hot-and-cold. The defense (still) couldn’t figure out how to stop the run. And the legend of Harrison Mevis, aka the Thiccer Kicker, continued to grow.
Let’s break it all down in our five takeaways from the second one-score loss of the season.
1) The Tigers defense had no answers for the Boston College rushing attack
Boston College finished with 275 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. That’s bad. This is worse: Missouri’s defense has allowed at least 275 rushing yards in three separate games this year. The only other season in the last two decades in which the Tigers allowed at least 275 yards in three individual games was 2016. Missouri finished that season with a record of 4-8.
A complete inability to stop the run makes football a whole heck of a lot easier for the opposition. And it looked way too easy for Boston College in that game. The Eagles rushed for 122 yards in the first quarter, 101 yards in the third quarter and the only thing that kept the Tigers’ defense alive was when Boston College puzzlingly decided to pass.
I’m only half kidding.
Boston College only had three drives not result in points. Their first drive lasted one play and resulted in an interception. Their first drive of the second quarter lasted three plays and resulted in a punt. The Eagles passed on second and third down, both of which resulted in incompletions. And on their first possesion of the fourth quarter, Boston College once again passed on second and third down resulting in two incomplete passes and once again punting the ball to Missouri.
Boston College scored five touchdowns and two field goals on its other seven possessions.
Every time Boston College threw the ball, Missouri’s coaching staff should have sent BC a thank you letter. BC’s 29 pass attempts went for an average of six yards per attempt. That’s the same yards per attempt average as when they simply turned around and handed the ball to a running back.
There are no easy fixes for this issue. The defensive line is getting pushed back. The linebackers aren’t filling their correct gaps. There are missed tackles. There are bad angles from defensive backs. It happened against Central Michigan and Kentucky. It happened to Missouri’s backups in the fourth quarter against SEMO.
And it happened again on Saturday against Boston College.
Missouri’s next three opponents (Tennessee, North Texas and Texas A&M) each rank among the top 50 nationally in rushing yards per game. This could get worse before it gets better.
2) Missouri needs more from Connor Bazelak
That stat line is impressive; Bazelak finished the day 30-for-41 for 303 yards and a touchdown. He added three carries for 15 yards on the ground. He wasn’t sacked and the official stats show he was only hit twice.
But there were two throws he made that he simply can’t make. Both resulted in interceptions. One clinched the game for Boston College.
The first interception was midway through the third quarter. It appeared to be a shot play on play action designed to go to Barrett Banister on a crossing route. But it was under-thrown, late, and went straight to a dropping defender.
And then there was the overtime interception to end the game. Bazelak attempted to throw a corner route to Keke Chism. It was double-covered, at best. He trusted his guy to go up and win at the catch point. But there was zero need to make that throw in that spot.
It’s overtime. Your coach has already told you that if you score, you’re going for two. This drive is the game. And Bazelak threw it up for grabs on a 50/50 ball on first and 10 when your offense has had success driving down the field for the vast majority of the game? It just didn’t make any sense.
A big part of playing quarterback is understanding time and situation. That was one of Bazelak’s strengths last season. He rarely tried to do too much. Unfortunately, on Saturday, he tried to do too much and it came back to bite him twice.
It wasn’t just the interceptions, though. Bazelak was off on some of his “easy” throws, too. There were multiple times when Bazelak had a receiver open in the flat and he just... threw it at their feet? It was strange. I can’t explain it. I believe the first was a slip route behind the line of scrimmage to Bannister, and the other that immediately comes to mind was a third down conversion in the fourth quarter to Tyler Badie. Badie caught the ball and converted it for a first down, but the pass was at his shoestrings and if it were just about any other player, it likely would’ve hit the ground and resulted in an incompletion.
Bazelak is a perfectly fine starting college quarterback. He wasn’t the biggest reason the Tigers lost that game against Boston College. But this run defense isn’t getting any better. The offense has very little margin for error. If Missouri is going to win six or seven games, it needs more from Bazelak.
3) That might have been Keke Chism’s best game in a Missouri uniform
The box score might not scream “great game” for Chism, but his impact was felt in that game from start to finish. His final line was seven receptions for 67 yards. That’s the most receptions he’s had in any individual game in a Missouri uniform, and it’s tied for the second most yardage he’s had in any game with the Tigers.
The numbers are one thing. The impact is even more significant. Five of his seven receptions resulted in a first down. Two were critical conversions on a third and a fourth down to extend drives. He had a gain of five on fourth and two and a gain of 17 on third and two.
Missouri’s been looking for a true possession receiver in Drinkwitz’s offense, and it appears to have found one in Chism. He’s played that role at times, but Saturday felt different. He looked confident, and he was catching everything thrown his way. He’s a big, physical receiver on a team that lacks them. Getting him involved early and often should be a significant part of the game plan moving forward.
4) Harrison Mevis is one of the best Missouri kickers... ever
Mevis is coming off one of the best seasons by a freshman kicker in the last 20 years of college football. He’s adding to his legend in 2021.
Mevis started the season 16-for-16 on extra points and 3-for-3 on field goals coming into the Boston College game. Mevis came into the week as one of 10 power five kickers to make 100 percent of his extra points and field goals (min. 10 XP, 3 FG).
He was already putting together one heck of an encore performance. And then came his finest moment, the kick to tie the game against Boston College.
The Tigers were down by three with 25 seconds to play. They drove 36 yards on just six plays to get into field goal position. Well, that’s not fair. They were in Mevis position. Most college kickers don’t have a prayer kicking a 56-yard field goal. Mevis is #BuiltDifferent.
He was already 1-for-1 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points in the game. And then he absolutely DRILLED the game-tying field goal as time expired.
56-YARD FIELD GOAL TO SEND TO OVERTIME— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 25, 2021
MIZZOU KICKER FOR HEISMAN
It’s a kick that won’t be remembered as much as his game-winner last year against Arkansas, but this was even more impressive. That kick was from 32 yards away. This kick tied the longest made field goal by any kicker this season. It happened on the road in a sold out environment and it sent the game into overtime.
Harrison Mevis very well might go down as Missouri’s all-time leading scorer. He simply added to his legend on Saturday.
5) This loss wasn’t shocking, but that doesn’t make it feel any better
Missouri was technically favored in this game, but it was about as close as any game can get to being a pick ‘em. The numbers nerds (I say that affectionately) predicted a Boston College win. The only real question was how the Eagles’ backup quarterback, Dennis Grosel, would play.
He was fine. And fine was enough.
Boston College is a really solid team with a quality coaching staff. They have an imposing offensive line and a heck of a running back. If you grade talent by recruiting rankings, this was a game of two similarly rated teams.
Nate Edwards spent his offseason trying to tamp down expectations for this Missouri team. This isn’t the end product. Eli Drinkwitz is very much still in the early portions of the rebuild. The Tigers probably outperformed the “quality” of their roster because of late-game magic and winning all three of its one-score games. We’re seeing the inverse of that in 2021 with Missouri losing both of its one-score games. It doesn’t feel nearly as good.
Nate also tried to warn about the difficulty of playing against this particular Boston College team. Let’s take a look back to his game preview, from June.
I hate this game. I hate that the Tigers are playing an offense that is uniquely equipped to take advantage of an obvious Missouri weakness. I hate that Missouri has to travel to Boston to play it. I hate that the next week Mizzou will be going up against division foe Tennessee. I have no idea who scheduled this or for what reason, but there is no reasonable football argument that could be made for playing this game. The SEC schedule is hard enough as it is; why complicate it by playing another P5 team on the road on the east coast?
That looks pretty prophetic right about now. Winning this game would have been a bigger statement for Drinkwitz than beating LSU last year. I know it wouldn’t have registered as such for the vast majority of the fanbase. But it should’ve.
This was an incredibly difficult test for a Missouri team that still has not won a true road game on the opposing team’s campus since 2018 (Missouri beat Arkansas in Little Rock in 2019).
Boston College is probably better than you thought. Missouri is probably a little worse than we hoped. That’s the reality of where things stand today. The Tigers still have every opportunity to win six games this season, but Tennessee, North Texas, Vanderbilt and South Carolina are now all legitimate must-win games. The margin for error is non-existent.
Missouri lost its first two swing games of the season. It doesn’t feel good. And I’m not here to tell you it should.