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Pourover: Mizzou’s run defense is helping us adjust season expectations

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Or, “Why we should all listen to Nate Edwards more often”.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Missouri at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There was a moment after Missouri scored to go ahead in the 4th quarter when you sensed it. With almost 6 minutes left to play, and a 4 point lead, Missouri’s much maligned defense needed to do something they’d largely failed to do all day. They needed to stop Boston College’s offense from scoring a touchdown.

It went just about as you thought it would. Starting with a penalty for unnecessary roughness, BC started on their own 40 yard line. Here are the plays in succession:

  • 1st & 10 — rush up the middle for 4 yards
  • 2nd & 6 — Offsides on Missouri
  • 2nd & 1 — rush up the middle for no gain
  • 3rd & 1 — rush up the middle for 2 yards
  • 1st & 10 — rush up the middle for 2 yards
  • 2nd & 8 — rush to the right for 4 yards
  • 3rd & 4 — pass middle for 6 yards
  • 1st & 10 — pass right for 8 yards
  • 2nd & 2 — rush up the middle for 6 yards
  • 1st & 10 — rush to the left for 14 yards, penalty on the offense for facemask
  • 1st & 12 — pass middle for 7 yards
  • 2nd & 5 — rush up the middle for 3 yards
  • 2rd & 2 — rush up the middle for 3 yards
  • 1st & 10 — rush right for 7 yards
  • 2nd & 3 — pass incomplete
  • 3rd & 3 — rush up the middle for 5 yards, Touchdown.

15 plays, 60 yards. 11 rushes, 36 yards. Missouri gave them 20 yards on penalties, they gave 15 of it back, with another 21 yards through the air. The only bonus you could takeaway from it was when they scored on 3rd and 3 from the 5 yard line with 25 seconds left on the clock, instead of getting stopped one more time and taking even more time off the clock, because it never felt like the Missouri defense was capable of executing well enough to get the stop they needed. The additional time only gave us another reason to further elevate the mythology of the Thiccer, Harrison Mevis, when he banged in a 56 yard field goal to tie the game.

As much as I expected Mizzou’s defense to come up short on that last drive, I also expected to see Mevis bang that field goal through the uprights as long as they were within 60 or so yards.

Four games into the 2021 season and Missouri is a disappointing 2-2. Clearly this isn’t the start everyone hoped for. The offense isn’t perfect, but far from the problem. The special teams look pretty good, but the defense... well it’s ugly. For all the excitement in the offseason surrounding Eli Drinkwitz fixing some open holes in the secondary (and he did, Akayleb Evans and Allie Green IV have been solid at least), the holes in the defensive line and in the linebacking corps worsened via offseason movement.

Mizzou’s defense wasn’t great last year, but it had Nick Bolton. And Bolton cleaned up a lot of mistakes last year. They also had Tre Williams, who never quite looked like the budding All-American candidate he looked like against Texas A&M yesterday, but could always be counted on to be a solid and consistent player. The point is— absent a few key pieces, and without importing any ready made playmakers, the defense is just what it is at this point.

BK mentioned Drink’s one-score magic in his 5-takeaways last night, and I talked about the close game record in the State of the Program, but it’s really prescient because it helps us set expectations. If a couple key close games flip their results last year it’s a lot more likely we aren’t surprised by this apparent slow start. As I said, Missouri was much closer to being a 3-7 team last year than even a 6-4 team.

Eli Drinkwitz has been an exciting hire and made a lot of headway for Mizzou in its recruiting. Landing elite playmakers like Mookie Cooper, Sam Horn, and hopefully Luther Burden is all very exciting, but the most important recruits coming in are Marquis Gracial and Deshawn Woods and Xavier Simmons. And not just those guys but the same guys who’ll hopefully be in the 2023 class, and 2024. Drink has to be able to keep the recruiting momentum up and moving forward even as the season wanders away from our early hopes or expectations. As the fair weather fans’ attention wanes, the attention of high level recruits needs to be laser focused on what Drink’s vision of the program can be.

As all we’ve seen so far is there’s a ways to go. But Tennessee is still a winnable game, go get back above .500. I think the goals shift a bit, but still plenty to play for.

Stats from StatBroadcast:

stat broadcast boston college 9252021
stat broadcast boston college 9252021

Here are your other SEC scores:

  • 1. Alabama 63, Southern Miss 14
  • 2. Georgia 62, Vanderbilt 0
  • 16. Arkansas 20, 7. Texas A&M 10
  • 11. Florida 38, Tennessee 14
  • 23. Auburn 34, Georgia State 24
  • LSU 28, Mississippi State 25
  • Kentucky 16, South Carolina 10

Yesterday at Rock M

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