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Pourover: Don’t let very poor officiating obfuscate that Mizzou is still behind Kentucky in the SEC East

The measuring stick for program growth is how you perform against your peers. Mizzou has failed against UK again.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part I always try to keep these Pourover columns about the bigger picture. Sometimes, especially after a game like yesterday, it’s harder to keep that in focus.

After all, it felt like every questionable call went against the Tigers. Let’s see if I can recap them all:

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty — in the skirmish on the sidelines in the 1st half, I fully expected the old “offsetting penalties” game, but instead only Mizzou was flagged. It sure looked to me like the Kentucky sideline was doing a lot of instigating and Mizzou players were trying to pull themselves away, but at the last minute Josh Landry ran in and got into a small tussle which cost them. Considering the entire interaction, it’s hard to believe one team took a penalty. Ultimately it didn’t cost the Tigers, but it kind of set the tone.
  • The play that hurt more was a poor spot on 3rd & 1 at the Mizzou 25. Mizzou had a catastrophic mistake on the previous punt, the snap was fumbled and punter Jack Stonehouse nearly ran for a 1st down — which the spot should have been reviewed on its own — but ended up short. The defense stepped up and shut the door on 3rd & 1. Here’s the spot:

Yeah, Kentucky would score a touchdown on the drive to go up 14-3.

  • Next was the Targeting reversal, of which I’ll link to Aaron’s tweet with the rule... but I’m not sure how you reverse that call. But the defense held again.
  • Here’s the crazy part. Mizzou overcame all this and took the lead 17-14 with a little over 8 minutes to play. When Kentucky got the ball back, they advanced the ball all the way down into Mizzou territory when Chris Rodriguez ran the ball and was gang tackled when the ball squirted out. The call was ruled a fumble on the field, but after review it was overturned. I was running the RMN twitter account at the time and all I could think was “conclusive evidence”. I * ~ think ~ * the ground caused the fumble, but there’s no way to see from the angles we had that the ball wasn’t moving before he hit the ground. Yet, Kentucky kept the ball, and scored shortly after.
  • Yet the defense stepped up one more time. After Mizzou gave the ball back, Mizzou forced a 3 & out, when on 4th down UK sailed the long snap over punter Colin Goodfellow’s head. As he chased the ball all the way back to the Mizzou 2 yard line. He recovered the ball 40 yards behind the line of scrimmage, turned and got a kick off. Simultaneously, backup linebacker Will Norris went to tackle Goodfellow. He got flagged for “Roughing” the Kicker. Because in football, you’re apparently not allowed to tackle the guy with the ball as long as he intends to kick the football?

I don’t know. I know some of those were “the correct call” by letter, but it’s hard not to be frustrated when it’s felt like Mizzou was starting to figure some things out this season only to have (basically) every 50/50 call go against them today.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Will Norris did what any football player would do after watching the snap sail over the head of the punter, he tackled the ball carrier on a broken play. The result was the worst possible outcome. Kentucky got the ball back, ran another 2 minutes off the clock, and all but sealed the game. If Mizzou would have gotten the ball back they still would have needed a touchdown, something which had proven difficult all day. So it’s no guarantee, but to that point they’d found a way to overcome everything else.

Mizzou’s defense was great again. They were able to keep the Tigers in the game while the offense sputtered, and even when the officials weren’t helping them out (which was the whole time) they still found ways to get stops. Brady Cook had another horrible costly turnover when he basically spiked his pump fake into the turf. But to his credit he made some big plays to get Mizzou back into the game. Ultimately not enough plays, but he got them the lead in the 4th quarter on a wonderful 20 yard run. The offensive line was still bad, and to make matters worse E.J. Ndoma-Ogar got hurt, and so did Xavier Delgado.

But one of the reasons why the Kentucky game is important is its relation as a peer program. A peer program is a program you have to beat on a regular basis to get beyond your current tier. Right now here is how I see the pecking order of the SEC East:

  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina
  • Vanderbilt

So basically Missouri, as a program, is currently better than Vanderbilt (6 wins in the last 7 games) and South Carolina (4 straight wins). Kentucky has the edge over Florida right now but it’s not difficult to see that changing under the right leadership in Gainesville. UK has won the last two and three of the last five against the Gators, but that predates a 31 game win streak by the Gators. So I really see Kentucky as your next target if you’re trying to move up the chain. After yesterday’s loss, the Cats have won 7 of the last 8 versus Missouri. Most of those games have been close, so it may not quite feel like that, but that only further emphasizes how important the games are.

In 2015 Missouri lost by 8 in Lexington. That season was largely seen as a disappointment with a great defense covering up a poor offense. Both teams finished 5-7, but if Mizzou wins that game its also possible Mark Stoops gets fired. It was his third season, he was 5-7 the year before so it could’ve been viewed as a step back. But the next season in Barry Odoms first year, Mizzou lost 35-21. They finished 4-8, UK finished 7-6 and went to a bowl. The next year again Mizzou went a slightly disappointing 7-6, including a 40-34 loss to a Kentucky team that also finished 7-6. In 2018 it was the infamous 15-14 game. Mizzou finished 8-4, Kentucky finished 10-3. Then in 2019 one of the games which got Barry Odom fired was a 29-7 ass-kicking by the Wildcats in the rain.

Kentucky finished 2019 8-5, while Mizzou finished 6-6.

In a lot of ways, this matchup has drastically impacted each program. Mark Stoops is still gainfully employed in Lexington. He’s so comfortable there he’s chided John Calipari about Kentucky not being a football school. (News flash for Mark, it’s not a football school. The fact you still have a job should tell you that. Fans are mad at Cal for not getting to a Final Four in the last 7 years despite always making the NCAA tournament, meanwhile you’re bragging about making bowls. Relax, pal. It’s a basketball school.)

But if Mizzou were 7-1 in the games instead of the opposite, Barry Odom is still the head coach (most likely) and Mark Stoops is not the coach at Kentucky. That’s a peer program.

So while Eli Drinkwitz got a contract extension, he should use the Kentucky game as the measuring stick. Mizzou should really want to beat UK in Lexington next year. That’s a real way to measure progress for this program. Are you moving ahead of your peers? So far, not so much.

statbroadcast tennessee 2022
statbroadcast tennessee 2022
statbroadcast tennessee 2022

Other SEC Scores:

  • Georgia (3) 27, Tennessee (1) 13
  • LSU (10) 32, Alabama (6) 31 (OT)
  • Florida 41, Texas A&M 24
  • South Carolina 38, Vanderbilt 27
  • Mississippi State 39, Auburn 33
  • L*berty 21, Arkansas 19
  • Ole Miss — bye