Mizzou football: Which defense should we expect moving forward?
The Missouri Tigers’ offense is going to put points on the board. Even in a lackluster effort on Saturday against Georgia, the Tigers found the end zone four times in a 43-29 loss.
The big question is on defense, as it has been for the past three seasons.
In a narrow Week 3 win over Purdue, the Tigers were horrible on defense, allowing Boilermakers quarterback David Blough to throw for a school-record 572 yards and set a Big Ten record with 590 total yards. However, on Saturday, the Tigers defense was much better against the No. 2 team in the country.
Though the Bulldogs put up 43 points (more than Purdue, it should be noted), mistakes by the offense and special teams (and a big block from an official) led to several Georgia scores. In fact, the Mizzou defense had a number of key stops and allowed only six points in the first half.
The Tigers also snagged three turnovers on Saturday — two fumbles and an interception. That matched their total from the first three games of the year.
So, as we head into Mizzou’s bye week, the big question is, which defense should fans expect moving forward? The one that couldn’t stop the pass against a team that fell to 0-3 after losing to the Tigers, or the one that looked competent against a team that was one play away from winning a national title last year?
The Tigers have a bye week to continue to build off of Saturday’s performance, but a trip to South Carolina awaits them in Week 6.
The Gamecocks will pose another tough challenge, especially on the road, but that offense under QB Jake Bentley is similar to Georgia’s. WR/KR Deebo Samuel is a huge threat, but the Tigers should handle the Gamecocks’ rushing attack.
A Week 7 trip to Tuscaloosa should be chalked up as a loss, as Alabama looks like an absolute juggernaut this season. Considering how Blough looked against Mizzou’s secondary, Crimson Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa might just put the Heisman Trophy race out of reach when he faces the Tigers.
From there, though, the schedule gets much more manageable — homecoming vs. Memphis, a tough Kentucky team in Columbia, road trip to Florida, home vs. Vanderbilt, at Tennessee and home vs. Arkansas.
If Missouri keeps up Saturday’s defensive effort and avoids the costly offensive and special teams mistakes that happened against Georgia, a 10-win season is still very much in play. However, if the defense that showed up against Purdue rears its ugly head again, a 6-6 season is also still very much in play.
The good news against Georgia: Terry Beckner Jr. looked like a first-round pick, the other defensive linemen got some pass rush, the run defense looked good and the secondary played much better than it did against Purdue. The bad news: The Tigers still lost.
However, Mizzou fans can take a lot of positives from Saturday’s loss. It shows a second-place finish in the SEC East is still a possibility, albeit one that will be put to the test on Oct. 27 when a very tough Kentucky squad comes to Faurot Field.
Even in the loss to Georgia, the Tigers offense did its part, holding the ball for much longer than it did last year. Time of possession was nearly even on (30:59 to 29:01 in favor of the Bulldogs) and that shows the effort on defense.
If the Tigers can get on the same page and have solid outings by the offense, defense and special teams in the same week, they look like a team that can hang with anyone in the country (other than Alabama, probably).