Mizzou football: Tigers show several flaws in loss at South Carolina
It’s called rain, fellas.
When rain started falling at South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, the Missouri Tigers absolutely imploded. Whether it was penalties after the whistle, dropped passes, blown coverages or special teams mistakes, the Tigers shot themselves in the foot over and over until there was nothing at which to aim.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks seemed to feed off the adverse conditions, erasing a 23-14 deficit and taking a 31-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Yes, the final score was only 37-35, but the Tigers repeatedly squandered golden opportunities, especially in the red zone. With better execution and better play-calling, Mizzou could have put up more than 50 points on the South Carolina defense.
Instead, Mizzou took another bitter, unacceptable road loss — something that has become common under coach Barry Odom. Though this year’s 3-2 record is much better than last year’s 1-4 mark through five games, Odom needs to get this team to rally, or things are going to spiral down quickly.
Let’s run through just a few of the myriad errors the Tigers made Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
What’s up with Drew Lock?
The Mizzou star quarterback hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 3 at Purdue, and had a number of passes on Saturday that were behind or at the feet of his intended targets.
The Tigers definitely miss star WR Emanuel Hall, who was out with a groin injury, but that doesn’t explain Lock’s inaccuracy. Even when Lock’s passes were on target, his receivers didn’t help him.
Both Johnathon Johnson and Albert Okwuegbunam dropped touchdown passes, and there were other passes dropped, too. Getting Hall back will help, but the entire passing game needs to improve or the Tigers will continue to struggle — something few imagined saying heading into the season.
Weak defensive play-calling
The Tigers got home with a number of blitzes before the rain started falling. However, on the last couple of drives of the game, with a win within reach, Odom and coordinator Ryan Walters got timid, opting to play coverage instead of going after Gamecocks backup QB Michael Scarnecchia.
Naturally, that led to Scarnecchia having all day in the pocket on the final drive, and the Tigers have shown that they their pass defense can’t cover for that long. On cue, a big 27-yard pass to Kyle Markway got the Gamecocks into position for the winning field goal.
Would things have been different if the Tigers had blitzed? It’s impossible to know, but the defensive line is once again a strength, and it was neutralized by bad play-calling from Odom and Walters.
That is called coaching scared, and there are going to be a lot more losses in SEC play if it continues.
Lack of discipline
Both teams were penalized for 83 yards but the Tigers were jumping offsides, committing stupid personal fouls and doing other things to stall drives or give the Gamecocks critical yards.
It’s up to the coaches to make sure the team is disciplined, and the Tigers certainly were not on Saturday. Yes, the Gamecocks made mistakes, too, but it’s a lot easier to deal with mistakes when you win.
If the Tigers continue their undisciplined play in Tuscaloosa next weekend, it’s going to be a long evening against the No. 1 team, Alabama.
The Tigers made eight trips into the red zone and came away with only three touchdowns on Saturday. On the road, that’s not going to cut it. Kicker Tucker McCann had a good day, but when you have to attempt that many short field goals, it’s not a good sign for the offense.
The running game was gashing the Gamecocks from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, but there wasn’t as much room in the red zone. Add in costly drops from Albert O and Johnson and the Tigers shouldn’t have been as close on the scoreboard as they were.
Don’t expect the red-zone offense to get any better next weekend, but if the Tigers’ offensive struggles continue against Memphis in a couple of weeks, coordinator Derek Dooley might start to feel some heat.