Missouri football: 3 takeaways from the Tigers' overtime loss to Auburn
Missouri opened SEC play against Auburn on Saturday afternoon, taking a 2-1 record against nonconference opponents into the road matchup.
While this wasn’t a high-scoring contest and turned into an ugly loss, the Tigers could’ve been 1-0 in the SEC if they didn’t play conservative football when a win seemed in the bag. With a schedule ahead that includes some formidable conference competition, Mizzou has some things to think about but did show some promise.
Here’s 3 takeaways from the overtime loss:
1. Missouri can hang with SEC opponents
Missouri recorded solid victories over what many deemed to be lesser opponents this season, defeating Louisiana Tech in the season-opener and beating Abilene Christian after falling to Kansas State in Week 2. Against their first SEC opponent of the season, the Tigers proved they could hold their own. They were tied at 14-14 with Auburn at halftime and that score remained the same into the 4th quarter and overtime until Auburn kicked a 39-yard game-winning field goal.
At the same time, this was a matchup in which Auburn was deemed one of the lowliest teams in the conference and head coach Bryan Harsin was a hot seat candidate, which says a lot about where this program is and how much it still has to figure out. Regardless, it was a promising sign for a Missouri team that recently had to overcome an offensive disaster and has several tougher opponents than Auburn still ahead on the schedule.
While the defense undoubtedly won the day and there are still some things to work out on offense, Mizzou showed progression. It could be argued that the Tigers looked like the better overall team on Saturday despite neither squad really taking the game over.
2. Mizzou shut down Auburn’s run game
Auburn is known for running back Tank Bigsby and how much of an impact he makes on offense by powering the ground game. While Auburn got off to a decent start on the ground at the very beginning, that didn’t last forever (well, far from it) as the Mizzou defense that has been sneaky good to this point in the season — despite sometimes being overshadowed by poor offensive efforts — prevented the offensive line from opening up many run lanes to get things going.
Auburn finished with just 82 rushing yards. On its 1st drive, Auburn put up over 50 rushing yards but didn’t manage much else on the ground the rest of the day. This obviously doesn’t say as much about Bigsby’s play — he is one of the best running backs in the conference — but more about Auburn’s offensive line failing to find a way against a Mizzou defensive line that clearly understood the assignment and rose to the occasion.
The unit’s finest moment was its 4th-and-1 stop on Bigsby’s rush attempt with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation, which ultimately kept the game tied. Missouri’s offense then drove down the field, with a well-placed and well-timed 39-yard pass from quarterback Brady Cook to wide receiver Dominic Lovett that put the team in the red zone before a missed Harrison Mevis field goal sent the game to overtime.
3. Luther Burden not as much of a factor
One of the biggest questions by the 4th quarter was where exactly was Burden. The Tigers used him in successful trick plays last week, and he showed just how versatile he could be on special teams and within the offense in the Louisiana Tech game, when he recorded the first touchdown of his college career outside of the Wildcat formation.
He finished Saturday’s loss with 1 punt return for 2 yards and nothing else on the stat sheet.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Burden be not quite as involved. He was limited by a talented Kansas State defense in Week 2, when he finished with just 1 carry for 6 yards in the 40-12 loss.
It will be interesting to see how Burden is used and how many trick plays the Tigers use him in as they face No. 1-ranked Georgia on Saturday in a matchup that will undoubtedly expose the tweaks Mizzou still has to make.