Mizzou football: Can the Tigers once again rebound from an embarrassing loss?
So, Mizzou fans … do you even care if the NCAA decides to #MakeItRight this year anymore?
The Tigers lost 37-31 to the Wyoming Cowboys in a game in which they outgained the Cowboys 537-389 in yards and had a 28-16 edge in 1st downs. Unacceptable. Horrendous. Embarrassing. Whatever adjective you can think of is appropriate to describe the latest in a long line of bad losses during coach Barry Odom’s tenure.
The most disappointing part is that the Tigers had all offseason to prepare for this. They knew going in that they would have to play at altitude (Wyoming’s stadium is the highest in the FBS). That should have been enough time to get players properly conditioned. If you don’t want to do more conditioning in the offseason, don’t schedule road games against Group of 5 teams at altitude.
Adding insult to injury, the Cowboys hadn’t beaten a Power 5 team since 2008. No, not 2018 … 2008. These are the sort of painful losses that have become common during Odom’s tenure (remember the Kentucky and South Carolina losses in 2018, the Purdue blowout in 2017, the homecoming loss to Middle Tennessee in 2016 and several others?). Add Wyoming to the list.
There’s still time to turn things around, but these sorts of losses are unacceptable. Odom has received praise the past 2 seasons for having strong second halves and finishing with a solid record. Yes, those turnarounds have been nice, but you have to think of it differently.
People say it was great that the Tigers finished 8-5 last season, improving their win total from 2017. However, 10 wins were on the table. Good coaches avoid embarrassing collapses at South Carolina and at home against Kentucky. Good coaches also have their teams prepared for Week 1 matchups against Group of 5 teams.
So, can Odom turn things around and take some heat off him once again?
Take advantage of the schedule
This year, Odom will need to flip the script and do it in the first half of the season.
The Tigers have West Virginia this weekend, then Southeast Missouri State, South Carolina, Troy and Ole Miss (all at home). Then, they head to Vanderbilt and Kentucky to close out October.
Coming into the season, people were talking about Mizzou entering the Georgia game on Nov. 9 with a perfect 8-0 record. Obviously, that’s off the table, but none of the teams mentioned above were overly impressive in Week 1.
There are still plenty of wins on the table. But if the Tigers play the way they did against Wyoming, a losing record heading into Georgia isn’t off the table.
Figure out the running game
Rushing for 114 yards against a Group of 5 team is unacceptable. Tyler Badie led the way with 53 yards, Larry Rountree III had 41 yards and QB Kelly Bryant had 20 yards.
For a team with talent like that in the backfield and 3 returning starters on the offensive line, it’s unfathomable. This was supposed to be one of Mizzou’s best rushing attacks in recent memory. That wasn’t the case Saturday.
It wasn’t a case of predictability, as OC Derek Dooley did a pretty good job of mixing up running and passing on 1st down. Bryant also kept the Cowboys honest with his arm, throwing for an unexpected 423 yards and 2 touchdowns (to go with 1 costly interception).
Did the aforementioned altitude simply slow down the line? That’s how it seemed at times. If that’s the case, things should improve back at the lower elevation in Columbia this weekend. If it was something else, it could be a long year.
Coach like you’re 1-5
We’re all familiar with the speech Odom gave after a blowout loss to Auburn in 2017. What happened next was a 6-0 finish before the Tigers lost to Texas in the bowl game.
He’s clearly good at giving fiery speeches when his back is against the wall, so why does it seem like the team isn’t prepared to start these seasons? Yes, the Tigers committed 3 costly turnovers, but that run defense was a mess. That’s where Odom’s area of expertise is supposed to be.
And, yes, you can only put the players you have in the right position to make plays, but who brings those players? Odom and his staff. The linebacker depth behind Cale Garrett is thin, to say the least.
But the Tigers have made turnovers and have had mediocre recruiting classes for a few years, so what’s the difference? If it’s as simple as lighting a fire under the team, then Odom needs to get on it as soon as possible.
The Tigers can still have a special season, but the margin for error is significantly smaller. Fortunately for Mizzou, that’s when Odom and the players seem to do their best work.