I’ve been thinking about this stat since the end of the Abilene Christian game. Did you know the last time Missouri scored 34 or fewer points against an FCS opponent was 2015? In fact, those are the only two instances in which Missouri has scored fewer than 37 points against an FCS opponent in the last 20 years.
It’s the kind of company you don’t want to keep. Missouri fans are experiencing a bit of deja vu.
2015 was a season in which the on-field product simply did not match the preseason expectations. A young quarterback looked overwhelmed, an offensive line with multiple players looked overwhelmed, and the defense tried its best to keep scores respectable.
Sound familiar? As I started to look deeper into the on-field memories of the 2015 season, I couldn’t help but see the similarities.
Going into 2015, Missouri fans were full of optimism. Why wouldn’t they be? The team was coming off back-to-back SEC East titles with a returning starter at quarterback and a defense full of returning production. But things went haywire almost immediately. Russell Hansbrough hurt his ankle in the Tigers’ season-opener. So did Evan Boehm. Both players fought through the pain, but they weren’t the same. Maty Mauk’s start to the season on the field was as uneven as his behavior off of it.
The team started 3-0, but the wins were far from awe-inspiring. Mizzou beat SEMO 34-3, followed it up with a nail-biter 27-20 win at Arkansas State and then they set offense back 50 years in the worst football game I’ve witnessed in person, a 9-6 victory against UCONN. That’s when the winning, more or less, came to an end. The offensive line was too much to overcome. Quarterback play was too much to overcome. The defense could only hold things together with toothpicks and bubblegum for so long. The losses started to pile up, and the end of the season couldn’t come quick enough.
(Obviously, there were also off-field issues that played into the end-of-season scenario. I don’t care to get into those at the moment. Let’s focus on the on-field similarities.)
Missouri’s 2022 season, much like 2015, started with legitimate reasons for optimism. The team isn’t coming off back-to-back SEC East titles, but they are coming off two of the best recruiting classes in program history. The defense doesn’t return a ton of production, but it brought in a new group of starters that provided a whole lot of hope. The wide receiver room got a much-needed overhaul, enough to potentially mask over the deficiencies at quarterback.
It just hasn’t come together. The Tigers struggled to pull away from an FCS opponent. Kansas State out-dueled the Tigers much like Florida did in 2015. What lies ahead is a gauntlet of a schedule which is unlike anything Missouri had to face back in 2015.
For me, Missouri’s 2015 season is remembered as the end of an era. A defense that ranked among the best in the country was not enough to prop up an offense that ranked among the worst. This defense isn’t as good as the 2015 version, but the offense has some unfortunate similarities. Missouri finished the 2015 season with five wins due to a soft schedule. At this point, all I can do is hope Missouri can match that win total in 2022.