Mizzou's to-do list: Protect the ball, protect late leads
Neither team played particularly well in Georgia’s 28-27 victory over Missouri in Columbia on Saturday night, but after all was said and done, it was obvious why one team is ranked and one isn’t.
The Bulldogs did just enough to win, while the Tigers did just enough to lose.
There were plenty of positives from Mizzou, but good teams close out tough games like Saturday’s and the Tigers just aren’t there yet.
Here are some final thoughts on Mizzou’s frustrating Week 3 loss to the Bulldogs:
J’Mon Moore is frustratingly talented: Moore was incredible Saturday night, catching eight passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
One of those touchdowns was a 79-yard sprint where he left several Georgia defenders behind.
J'Mon Moore for 79 yards and the touchdown! pic.twitter.com/2XvegTyCrB
— ZouGifs (@ZouCast) September 18, 2016
J'Mon Moore leads the SEC in receiving yards with 320 through three weeks. Led #Mizzou with 350 yards last year.
— Pete Scantlebury (@PeteScantlebury) September 18, 2016
However, he still had a couple of big drops and made the costliest mistake of all, fumbling when Mizzou needed to drive into field goal range for a chance to win the game.
Ball security is an issue: There’s no reason Saturday’s game should have been so close when you look at the turnover differential.
Georgia turned the ball over once — on a Jacob Eason interception — while the Tigers turned it over a whopping five times — three on interceptions and two on fumbles.
When you finish a game with a minus-four turnover margin and only lose by one point, it’s a borderline miracle. If Georgia had converted more of Mizzou’s turnovers into points, the game would have been a blowout.
Someone should defend the middle of the field: I’m not sure exactly what kind of scheme defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross is running, but someone should tell him to have a player defend the middle of the field.
The Tigers were burned numerous times on post routes and seams up the middle, including on Georgia WR Isaiah McKenzie’s game-winning touchdown catch.
The linebackers have struggled in coverage all year, but something needs to change and someone needs to take away the over-the-middle passing routes or it’s going to continue to be a long year for the Mizzou defense.
QB Drew Lock looked great at times again, throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns. He leads the SEC with 1,106 passing yards and is second with nine touchdown throws.
However, the sophomore showed his youth several other times Saturday, tossing three interceptions, two of which were inexcusable. The costliest was the final one picked off in the end zone. Georgia didn’t score on the ensuing possession, but it cost the Tigers a chance to kick a field goal that would have stretched their lead to 9.
The running game, meanwhile, was ineffective. Ish Witter led the way with 76 yards on 25 carries, good for only 3.0 yards per carry.
There were plenty of positives, but the Tigers still have a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball.
Charles Harris and the defensive line finally started getting some pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but they couldn’t keep it up for the whole game. Harris entered the game with zero sacks and left with three.
During Georgia’s fourth-quarter comeback, the Tigers got absolutely no pressure on Eason, allowing him to exploit Mizzou’s weak coverage over the middle.
Special Teams: B
K Tucker McCann made his kicks, P Corey Fatony was solid again and the special-teams units didn’t do anything negative to lose Saturday’s game. Well, pinning Georgia inside its 10 on Fatony’s final punt would have been nice, but the ball found the end zone.
It’d be nice to get a little more from the return game, but overall, it was a decent performance from the Mizzou special teams squads.
Telegraphing runs up the middle and snapping the ball with 25 seconds left on the play clock is not how good teams protect a lead.
Also, as mentioned above, watching Cross’ defense give up big play after big play over the middle of the field is frustrating.
The Tigers could have (and probably should have) won Saturday night. Eventually, they’ll figure out how to protect leads and win close games, but they’re not there yet.
Overall, though it was a frustrating loss for Mizzou, there’s plenty of reason for hope moving forward, especially with a chance to rebound against Delaware State next week.
DE Charles Harris: Harris showed up in a big way early in Saturday’s game. In addition to picking up three sacks, he knocked down a pass and was in the backfield on several running plays, too.
If he gets going in the next few weeks, opponents will not enjoy playing the Tigers.
K Tucker McCann: After a rough couple of weeks, McCann was solid Saturday night.
The freshman made both of his field goal attempts and all three extra points.
Saturday was hopefully a big confidence booster for him. If he can continue making mid-range kicks, the Tigers will be more competitive.
WR Keyon Dilosa and RB Alex Ross both missed Saturday’s game with injuries.
The biggest loss for the Tigers on Saturday was C Samson Bailey, who sprained his ankle. Freshman CB Christian Holmes was also injured on a late-game punt return.