Last week we talked in this space about missed opportunities. And once again, Mizzou took the field on a Saturday and watched an opportunity for a win slip through their wings.
But I want to at least start with this, Mizzou is not a bad football team.
They’re not particularly good, and on the gradient of okay or decent College Football teams, they may be on the lower end. But they’re not bad.
Against Auburn they were the better ball club for most of the game. Against Georgia they were the better ball club for most of the game. And again, against Florida they were the better team for virtually the entire game.
I’m under no pretense that the Tigers are a better overall team than Georgia, but on that Saturday they nearly were. And against Auburn and Florida they were. Costly mistakes have now haunted the Tigers for three straight weeks. Poorly timed interceptions, dropped balls, penalties. They’ve been a hair away from victory and couldn’t pull it off now.
So what comes next? In a bye week, with only the hope of squeezing into a bowl game left to achieve for this season, what is the remaining goal? What is this team trying to accomplish?
As you watch the game, see who is making plays. You see Mookie Cooper rounding into shape, a sophomore. You see Dominic Lovett leading the SEC in yards, a sophomore. Mekhi Miller made two big catches yesterday, a freshman. Nathaniel Peat is a senior, but he does have a COVID year if he wanted to play in 2023. And I know he’s taking some heat by this fanbase, but Brady Cook is a sophomore. He’s also looked better with each start.
On defense, Daylan Carnell can’t see a snap without making a play. Ennis Rakestraw, Jr., a sophomore, is flashing the ability we knew he had. He’s turning into a real cover corner. Mizzou has just one senior in the defensive backfield in Martez Manuel. Joseph Charleston, Dreyden Norwood, Jaylon Carlies, all coming back. Ty’Ron Hopper is a junior who’s looking like an early NFL entrant with the way he’s played, and Dameon Wilson is just a redshirt freshman playing the second most snaps at linebacker behind Hopper. The defensive line is going to need some help, so hopefully those young talented 4-star linemen Eli Drinkwitz has been signing for the last few years begin to round into shape.
Overall this is a very young football team. And we’re seeing a lot of youth, and inexperience fail at the wrong times, in the wrong ways. It’s costing them. I guess the only question becomes whether or not we believe in the talent?
It’s frustrating to watch it play out. But at this point I feel comfortable knowing they’ve gotten a bit better, they’re playing hard, and there are some good building blocks for a team that can do more than just lose tight games.
We all know the difference between a bad season, a mediocre season, and a good season are just a few bounces of the ball. If Mizzou makes a field goal at Auburn, comes up with a stop against Georgia, and Brady Cook doesn’t throw two interceptions at Florida, now you’re 5-1. Sometimes those good seasons can turn into great ones with the right snowball effect. Maybe a 5-1 Mizzou finds a way at Tennessee and wins out (not likely, but hey— it’s an exercise). But at worst you’re ranked heading into a bye week with a good opportunity to go 6-1 at home against Vanderbilt. Even if you drop the game to Georgia in the same manner, but beat both Auburn and Florida, 4-2 certainly looks a lot better and might get Mizzou into some votes in the top 25.
But mediocre seasons can turn into bad ones the same way. And it feels like we’re at that precipice. Which is why I’m curious about where Mizzou is going to go from here, and there’s a bye week to figure it out. The young talent has been intriguing enough that a good finish to this season likely means a Bowl game, but barely. If would certainly feel like a building block season if you can recover from the disappointment of so many close losses. Or it can go another way. A worse way.
For now, let’s be patient. Feel good the team has been competitive, that they’re still fighting. Continuing to fight, continuing to be patient with young talent, and continuing to show up and cheer hard at home games will go a long way.
As I said above, I think this is a precipice for the season. Where they go from here will determine a lot about the next few years of Mizzou Football.
Other SEC Scores:
- Alabama (1) 24, Texas A&M 20
- Georgia (2) 42, Auburn 10
- Tennessee (8) 40, LSU (25) 13
- Ole Miss (9) 52, Vanderbilt 28
- South Carolina 24, Kentucky (13) 14
- Mississippi State (23) 40, Arkansas 17