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Missouri's spring season came to a close on Saturday.

Missouri football: Starting defense shines in 2017 Black & Gold spring game

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri football’s 2017 spring season came to a close with the annual Black & Gold game on Saturday. While the score was meaningless, SEC Country takes a look at the positive and negative performances from Faurot Field.

Offense: B

The first-team offense didn’t look great; Drew Lock had an erratic day, but didn’t make any head-scratching throws. However, it’s hard to really be too hard on the first-team given that Barry Odom rested his two best running backs. Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter — the team’s leading and second-leading rusher in 2017 — dressed out, but didn’t take a single snap during the 2-hour scrimmage. Instead, walk-on RB Dawson Downing got the bulk of attention, rushing for 1 touchdown and carrying the ball 7 times for 56 yards in the first half.

The real excitement — and the reason why this grade isn’t, say, a C — is because of the performance of Jack Lowary and the second-team receivers. Lowary, a junior college transfer, provided the most explosive plays of the day. He connected with WR Emanuel Hall for 2 touchdowns, the first going for 43 yards and the second for 38. Hall showed promise and had 307 yards on 19 receptions in 2016, but his showing on Saturday makes Missouri’s passing game look even more fearsome in 2017.

Lowary, while playing well, likely won’t factor much in the 2017 plans. However, having a consistent performer at back-up quarterback is a must in case Lock gets injured this season.

Defense: B

Missouri’s first-team defense looked strong, outside of one 22-yard touchdown run by Dawson Downing in which S Anthony Sherrils took a bad angle. But a largely rebuilt group from one of the SEC’s worst defenses in 2016 showed considerable promise. Junior college transfer Rashad Brandon looked stout at defensive tackle, and when star DT Terry Beckner Jr. returns, that duo could be the anchor of this group.

Safeties Kaleb Prewett and Ronnell Perkins were arguably the best players on the field. Prewett transferred from Kansas State before the 2016 season, and after sitting out last year, he is poised to be Missouri’s starting nickelback in 2017. He had 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 pass break-up.

Perkins, who plays a traditional deep safety, finished the 2016 season as a starter and should begin 2017 in the same capacity. He’s a physical safety and had a sack off a blitz from his deep safety position. He also added an interception late off a poor decision by Jack Lowary.

Missouri’s second-team defense got burned on the 2 Lowary-to-Emanuel Hall touchdowns, but overall, the first-team defense looked steady and stout.

Special Teams: A

With no pressure, Corey Fatony averaged 51 yards a punt. Missouri hopes it won’t have to use him much in 2017, but Fatony should be one of the best punters in the SEC this year.

The only other special teams performance of note might be the most important. Kicker Tucker McCann — he of the 6-for-12 FG year in 2016 — made his only attempt of the day, a 47-yarder. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but it’s something to watch as McCann rebuilds his confidence.

Overall: B

Not much to write home about. The Missouri game plan in this friendly scrimmage was decidedly vanilla. With the game being televised on the SEC Network, there’s no reason for Barry Odom to show anything exotic on either offense or defense. The starting defense looked good; the second-team offense had its moments. Everything kind of canceled out, like it should in an intrasquad scrimmage. The most important fallout from the game is that Missouri didn’t suffer any injuries.

Missouri has the parts for a rebound in 2017. Now, with the spring season over, it’s about continuing to put them together over the summer.

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