Each and every game gives us the opportunity to learn something new about Missouri’s football team. Saturday against Boston College, we learned more than we would probably like to admit.
This team is limited. We knew that. But it might be even more limited than we expected. It’s also a team that never seems to go away because the Tigers rarely beat themselves with penalties, poor special teams or ugly turnovers.
We learned exactly how costly those turnovers can be in the Tigers’ loss at Boston College.
Connor Bazelak has become a bit of a lightning rod for Missouri’s fanbase. Some are thrilled with his performance, and for good reason. Others have grown frustrated by his dink-and-dunk style. There are merits to both arguments.
Re-watching some of Connor Bazelak's snaps from this season. This was one hell of a throw to Chance Luper. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/8LmvjKEq4m— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) September 29, 2021
Bazelak currently ranks among the top 25 nationally in completion percentage (68 percent), passing yards (1,200) and passing touchdowns (10). He’s improved his completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating compared to where it was a year ago. His command of the offense is clearly improved. And the results are starting to prove as much. Missouri’s offense now ranks 26th in Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings. Bazelak is a big part of that success.
This might be Connor Bazelak's best throw of the season, and it doesn't show up in the stat sheet. Rolling to his right, squares up and throws a dart to Chance Luper. Unfortunately, Luper wasn't able to come down with the catch. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/I2uPXOrB4M— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) September 29, 2021
But he’s not without his faults. And those faults can prove costly given the Tigers’ slim margin for error.
Missouri’s offense finished the game at Boston College with 22 first downs, 303 passing yards and 34 points... and it wasn’t enough. This defense isn’t very good and it’s probably not going to be very good. That’s the reality of the season. That puts even more pressure on the offense to perform at a high level. And, on Saturday, the offense simply made one too many mistakes.
Bazelak entered week four with just one interception in his first three starts of the season. He added two more to his name against the Eagles. His first came on the opening drive of the second half. BC went up by 10 on their next drive. His second interception ended the game in overtime.
Here are Bazelak's three INTs this season back-to-back-to-back. All three are forced throws. He missed a dropping defender on two of them, and I'm still not sure how to explain the interception that ended the game against Boston College. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/keex9UgEuL— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) September 29, 2021
Both were unnecessary throws that proved costly.
I can appreciate Bazelak trying to break tendencies and go deep when the opposition is least expecting it. But this offense simply cant afford to hand the ball to the other team. Not with this defense. And you certainly can’t force a throw the way he did in overtime.
Mizzou can have success with a quarterback playing the way Bazelak does. We’ve seen plenty of teams win with a quick passing game built on timing and rhythm. There’s no reason why he can’t be for Missouri what AJ McCarron was for *Alabama. Add in a running back like Tyler Badie, and Missouri has the makings of a really solid unit. We’ve seen the proof of that.
*No, I’m not suggesting Bazelak will win a national title at Missouri. Yes, I do think Bazelak and McCarron are similar stylistically and statistically. Carry on...
But playing in such a methodical way leaves you with very little margin for error. It requires long, sustained drives to score against quality opponents. Any mistakes along the way put you behind the eight ball.
Bazelak has been better than many have given him credit for this season. His ledger includes more positives than negatives. But his two mistakes on Saturday were costly, and a similar performance against Tennessee will lead to similar results.