Why is Missouri QB Drew Lock throwing TD passes on Idaho with a 44-point lead?
With 1:56 left in the third quarter this past week, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to receiver Richaud Floyd.
Like a lot of calls in the Tigers playbook, the design was a run-pass option that gave Lock the choice to either stick the pigskin in the belly of his tailback or fire it downfield to one of his wideouts. It’s all based on what’s given to him by the defense.
Needless to say, Lock made the correct decision. The alignment suggested — there were seven defenders in the box before the snap — that a passing play would have a better chance at success than a running play. A quick delivery from the junior QB hit his target in stride at the goal line between two helpless members of the secondary.
After the extra point, Mizzou’s 58-14 lead on Idaho had been extended to 65-14. It was Lock’s final throw of the contest.
But as I watched the play unfold live, I couldn’t help but think to myself, Why is Drew Lock throwing TD passes on Idaho late in the third quarter with a 44-point lead? It’s not like the result was still in question.
Yes, Missouri and Idaho went back to their respective locker rooms with equally disappointing 2-5 records, but the Tigers are a Power 5 team in the SEC — remember, “it just means more” — while Idaho is a Group of 5 school from the Sun Belt Conference. To me, it felt like Mizzou coach Barry Odom was running up the score to help erase the stench of a five-game losing streak.
By the way, Lock’s scoring strike to Floyd was on first-and-10. It wasn’t third-and-10, which would’ve been more justifiable.
This isn’t the first time Mizzou has been accused of padding stats at home against an inferior opponent. Last season, there was 61-21 over Eastern Michigan and 79-0 over Delaware State. And then this season, prior to Idaho, there was also 72-43 over Southwest Missouri State.
Lock, who many think has an NFL arm and will be taken in the draft once he leaves Columbia, fired a total of 23 touchdown passes — including a school-record 7 vs. Southwest Missouri State — in those four games. His yardage totals through the air were 450, 402, 521 and 467, respectively. Those are video game-like numbers.
Some of it has seemed awfully gratuitous, though. The Lock-to-Floyd connection in particular last Saturday felt totally unnecessary.
“We wanted to get our offense just because of the things that we know that we need to do down the stretch here,” Missouri coach Barry Odom (below) said Wednesday on the SEC’s weekly coaches teleconference. “We wanted them to be in position to play through three quarters, and there’s a lot of things built in within our offense no matter who’s on the field.”
In Odom’s defense, players don’t have a switch that he can simply turn on and off as he sees fit. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel operates a balls-to-the-wall system, and it’s Lock’s job to run it depending on what he sees.
“As with anybody in college football now offensively, most everybody has a run-pass option on the different look that an offense or defense is not only the play called, but then what is the defense giving you,” Odom said. “And we’re going to have to play together with our group through the third quarter. And then, so with that, that would be the reason for where we’re at.”
To be fair, I’m usually of the opinion that anything goes through three quarters. I’d have more of a problem with the score in question had it happened at the 13-minute mark of the fourth period, not the 2-minute mark of the third. Still, Idaho didn’t even score 44 points combined in its previous two games — both losses, by the way — against Louisiana and Appalachian State.
Odom’s D is dead last in the conference and gives up 39.1 points per game, but a six-score edge with 17 minutes to go was sufficient.
“We got into the fourth quarter and the headsets went into the mode of, I don’t care what they give us on the defensive side,” he said. “We’re going to hand the ball off and run out the clock.”
I also would’ve been less critical with someone besides Lock pulling the trigger there. Had it been backup Micah Wilson tossing his first TD as a collegian, that’s digestable. Reserves and walk-ons deserve a chance to shine, too.
“I think every team’s a little bit different, and the situation of the current season is, obviously, at this point in this season, there’s guys that were left on the field for a number of reasons,” Odom said. “We had a true freshman running at tailback, and we had some guys up front that were new that were playing. And the ability for them to play well and play well together to gain some confidence went into the decision.”
As a consumer of Tigers football the last two years, it’s difficult not to snicker when I see these things. Sure, they can beat up on Cupcake U. and Middle Nowhere State with the best of them, but then they get into league play and, well, can’t. As mentioned above, Lock had 23 scoring passes in those four blowouts. However, in 20 career tilts facing SEC foes, he has 22.
“We’ve made progress over the last three weeks,” Odom said. “We still got a long ways to go, and you want them to be able to try to go execute effectively together as a group.”
Mizzou likes to sling it. That’s fine. Nevertheless, until Odom and Co. slay a Goliath or two in conference play, mercilessly beating up on all the Davids out of conference won’t impress anyone.