I don’t even know what to say. How do you explain that one? Down 21-17 with 2:20 to play, Missouri forced a punt. Then, the impossible happened. The snap goes way over Kentucky’s punter’s head. It bounces all the way inside the five. Missouri is going to get this football in Kentucky field position with a chance to win the football game! Except, nope. They’re not. Because, Mizzou.
Let’s get into the takeaways.
1) Mizzou has found another new way to lose
So, let’s pick up where we left off. Do you know how difficult it is for a punter, with all his momentum going toward the end zone, to pick up the football, turn around and get a punt off with a linebacker in a dead sprint coming toward him to either tackle him or block any potential punt attempt? It’s nearly impossible. Most don’t even attempt it. They either fall on the football or pick it up and try to gain back as much yardage as possible.
Not Colin Goodfellow. Not against Missouri. Nope. That would make too much sense.
Instead, Goodfellow picked up the football and punted it in one fell swoop. It was nothing short of miraculous. Will Norris ran into Goodfellow after he got rid of the football, and instead of the Tigers getting the ball inside the five with more than two minutes down by four points, the ball remained with Kenucky to bleed out the clock.
Chad Bailey said the official told him once the punter gets back in position to kick the ball, the player has to tip the ball rather than tackle the punter. "They called it how they called it so we just had to play the next play."— Power Mizzou (@PowerMizzoucom) November 5, 2022
Mizzou eventually got the ball back, but there was only 30 seconds on the clock with the wind gusting in their face. It was simply too much to overcome.
This team has now lost games this season because their running back dropped the football right before he crossed the goal line on a potential game-winning touchdown, their quarterback spotted Florida seven points on a pick six in a game in which Florida would go on to win by seven, and now they lose - at least in part - because of a roughing the punter call on a play in which it appeared Missouri would be set up inside the five yard line with a chance to take the lead.
Only Mizzou, man. Only Mizzou.
2) Eli Drinkwitz had some bad moments in that game
Congrats to Eli Drinkwitz on his new 2-year contract extension. This team has shown clear and obvious progress from where they were when Drinkwitz took over. We can have the conversation on whether or not an extension was necessary at a later date. He got it, and that was the backdrop to this game prior to kickoff.
You would think a coach with a freshly signed extension would be willing to push the limits a bit, right? Maybe take some chances he wouldn’t otherwise?
The Tigers reverted back to the same tendencies they had prior to last week. The same outside zone running scheme, the same passes short of the sticks on third down and the same game management questions we’ve had in the past.
There were two situations in particular that stand out.
The first came late in the first half with the Tigers down 7-3 and about two minutes remaining prior to halftime. It’s fourth and one at the Kentucky 38-yard line. Missouri gets set to go for it, motions Tyler Macon under center, and goes with the hard count in an attempt to get Kentucky to jump offsides. This is a classic Drink move. It’s kind of “his thing.” He tries to get the offsides, then calls a timeout to get the play set. It almost never works. Opponents are prepared for this exact situation. It didn’t work this time, either. And then it backfired.
This is just baffling on every level. I get the play call from the sideline, but you need to have an audible if/when you see the defense line up like this. pic.twitter.com/jMVdLT0ElA— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) November 5, 2022
The Tigers came out of the timeout with Brady Cook lined up under center. Everyone and their mother knew what was coming next. Kentucky was prepared. They crowded the center with three interior defensive linemen lined up basically heads up on the center. They also had two linebackers backing them up. A sneak would put pressure on Missouri’s most undersized player, Connor Tollison, to win at the point of attack. That’s a tough ask. There should have been some kind of audible to the far side of the field where there was nothing but green grass. There wasn’t, Mizzou was stuffed, and the Tigers wasted a scoring opportunity.
The next big blunder was a game management situation. It’s third and one for Kentucky early in the third quarter. The Wildcats hand the ball off to Chris Rodriguez for an off-tackle play to the short side of the field. Jaylon Carlies makes contact with Rodriguez three yards in the backfield, Isaiah McGuire stuffs him at the line of scrimmage and the two combine to push him back another three yards. Rodriguez’s forward progress was, at best, stopped with a yard to gain. The refs made a clearly wrong call to give him the first down, and the Tigers never got a second look at the play.
That play has to be challenged. Instead of first and 10, it should have been fourth and one. Getting a yard on fourth down was far from a guarantee. Kentucky did, after all, finish the day getting stuffed on 10 of their carries (24 percent) on the day. Kentucky scored a touchdown five plays later to go up 14-3. That was a turning point in the game for Kentucky, and Drinkwitz deserved an assist.
3) Mizzou’s defense is just so darn good
Kentucky finished the game averaging just 4.1 yards per play and 2.0 yards per rush attempt. To put that in context, the Tigers are now 2-2 this season when its defense allows less than 4.2 yards per play (losses vs. Kentucky and Auburn). Mizzou was 21-3 over the past decade in such games (losses vs. Texas in ‘17 Texas Bowl, at Vanderbilt in ‘15 and at Georgia in ‘15).
The defense also played to its identity. The Tigers had 11 tackles for loss, six sacks and three pass breakups. They also allowed six pass plays of 15+ yards and four rushes of 10+ yards. Those 10 plays gained a total of 196 yards. Kentucky’s other 49 plays gained a total of 46 yards. This defense creates an insane amount of havoc. There are plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. There’s constant pressure on the quarterback. The defensive backs are making plays on the football. The only thing the defense wasn’t able to do against Kentucky was come away with a turnover.
Those big plays, though, are a byproduct of the way Missouri plays defensively. Blake Baker lives life on the edge. He’s going to come after you, and if you beat him over the top, he’ll tip his hat toward the offense. It’s worked more often than not. The Tigers have allowed an average of 18.7 points per game in SEC play. Georgia is the only SEC team to score more than 24 points against Mizzou. Heck, if you take into account the pick six against Florida, Georgia is the only team to score more than 21 points against Missouri’s defense.
The defense is legit. My fear all along was the possibility of a 2015 redux with the offense not being able to do its part. This offense is bette than that offense, but it’s not by a wide margin. That team finished 5-7. This team is hoping to avoid that same fate.
4) This offense can’t overcome self-inflicted wounds
We know what Missouri’s offense is and what it isn’t at this point. The Tigers struggle to move the ball consistently. The running game is more consistent with Cody Schrader taking the vast majority of the carries, but the passing game has trouble getting anything going when Dominic Lovett isn’t making something happen.
Well, Lovett finished this game with one reception for -4 yards. He was targeted on three other plays; Cook missed him on a wide open play down the near sideline, but Lovett drew a defensive pass interference, and was nearly able to draw a targeting penalty later in the game.
The Tigers were able to get Luther Burden III going a bit. He had his most efficient day of his young career, catching six of seven targets for 60 yards. Barrett Banister did what he does, finishing with four third down catches and five catches on the day. But it was too little, too late. Missouri had just 19 passing yards in the first half. The offense finished with a 28 percent success rate. That’s just not very good.
It’s made worse by self-inflicted wounds. Mizzou finished 2-for-13 on third down, many of which were passes that were thrown far short of the sticks. The Tigers were called for seven penalties which added up to 77 yards in field position. Cook fumbled the ball away on a play when he wasn’t touched. The Tigers turned the ball over on downs on the Kentucky side of the field when they ran the aforementioned quarterback sneak.
Hello from Columbia, Missouri. A pump fake fumble for Mizzou. pic.twitter.com/awNq4nnqdo— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) November 5, 2022
Last week we gave Missouri credit for playing a “clean” game. The Tigers simply do not have the margin for error that allows for these kinds of mistakes. When they happen, it leads to results like we saw on Saturday.
My co-host, Nate Edwards, always says Kentucky serves as a mirror to show you just how good you are as a team. We found out on Saturday exactly where Missouri stands. There’s still plenty of work to do.
5) The special teams don’t look very special
What... What was that? Good on Harrison Mevis for coming through on his lone field goal attempt, but Missouri’s special teams were otherwise a disaster for most of the game.
Jack Stonehouse’s punts against the wind went 23, 43, 41, and 40 yards, respectively. It was an incredibly windy day, so maybe you give the unit the benefit of the doubt for those. Regardless, a bad snap on the Tigers’ first punt of the second half resulted in Stonehouse attempting to pick up a 4th and four with his legs. Spoiler alert, he didn’t, and Kentucky started their next drive at the 34 yard line. That drive, of course, ended in a Wildcats touchdown.
If that wasn’t enough, Sean Koetting kicked the ball out of bounds on a squib kick midway through the first quarter, giving Kentucky the football at the 35-yard line. Midway through the fourth quarter, on another squib kick, Koetting kicked it 23 yards to the Kentucky 42-yard line. Kentucky scored the game-winning touchdown seven plays later.
Missouri’s special teams came into this week ranked 87th nationally in SP+. They will almost certainly be ranked even lower going into week 10.