Missouri report card: Offense sputters in loss
Missouri sustained a 21-3 setback Saturday against No. 11 Florida in a game that featured two of the SEC’s best defenses. It also made for some of the most unpleasant offense fans will see all season. Check out the following grades the Tigers deserve based on that performance.
To say the offense was stagnant would be too active of a verb. The Tigers managed 257 yards and just one field goal, but that doesn’t tell the full story of just how dreadful Mizzou’s offensive performance was Saturday. While the Tigers hadn’t been particularly explosive in their first four games, averaging just 21.4 points per game, Mizzou managed just 12 first downs Saturday and several came in garbage time. Converting on just 1-of-14 third-down opportunities is less than stellar, as was the 22:07 time of possession. However, the most symbolic measure of Mizzou’s ineptitude is the fact that seven of its 15 possessions ended in a three and out. And, the streak of having neither a 200-yard passer or a 100-yard rusher was extended to six games. Drew Lock played like a freshman, but wasn’t given any help from a cast of less than explosive pass catchers. Russell Hansbrough did rush for a team-high 74 yards.
This unit continues to be one of the best in the SEC. Florida’s time of possession was nearly 38 and the Gators ran 77 plays, but Mizzou was able to keep the scoring to a minimum. Take away Lock’s pick-6 and it’s reasonable to see why many are so impressed with this unit. The defensive line also continued its stellar play, coming up with five sacks and helping to hold the Gators to 2.9 yards per carry. The Tigers have now held seven consecutive opponents without a 100-yard rusher. Kentrell Brother registered 15 tackles, bringing his SEC-high total to 74 on the season. Defensive end Charles Harris added two more tackles for loss and highly-touted freshman Terry Beckner Jr. recorded the first sack of his career. Mizzou has held eight of its last 10 opponents to 21 points or less with the two outliers being Alabama and Texas A&M.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Corey Fatony was great, pinning Florida inside the 20 four times, but that’s where the good news ends. Andrew Baggett went 1-for-2 on field goals, though his miss was from 53 yards out. The Tigers continue to get very little help from the return game, averaging less than 13 yards per kickoff return and managed two yards total on nine Florida punts.
It is safe to say the Mizzou staff is unsure of how to handle this offensive unit. It is no secret that there are few elite playmakers, which makes it hard to maintain a typical Gary Pinkel attack, but I’m not sure how much of that blame belongs to him and how much belongs to the players. The receiving corps failed to get separation against an elite Florida secondary and when they did get space either 1) couldn’t make the catch, 2) do much with the reception or 3) Lock couldn’t deliver a good ball. The play calling got a little predictable, which helped contribute to constantly being behind the chains.
Mizzou fans should probably get used to inconsistency, especially on the offensive side of the ball. A lack of weapons, a freshman quarterback and an average run game means the defense must play like Superman. Regardless of who is quarterbacking, the margin of error is very slim. Losing the turnover battle 2-0, and a missed field goal, were the difference. The final margin looks bad, but this team isn’t as far off as it may have seemed at times on Saturday.