Grading the good, the bad and the defense in Mizzou's record-breaking opener
So, that was an unexpected Week 1 performance from the Missouri Tigers …
On Saturday, the FCS Missouri State Bears came to Faurot Field and held their own against the Tigers for most of the first half, ripping through Mizzou’s porous defense before ultimately falling 72-43.
It wasn’t what fans wanted to see, especially on the defensive side of the ball, as the Bears rolled to 35 easy first-half points. But a win’s a win, and half of all FBS teams would love to be sitting at 1-0 like the Tigers.
Still, as Mizzou prepares for its SEC opener against South Carolina next weekend, the coaching staff will need to see a lot of improvement from the defense or, at this time next Saturday, the Tigers will be 1-1.
Here are a few takeaways and a report card for the Tigers’ roller-coaster Week 1 performance:
1. The defense has a lot of work to do
Though the Tigers put up a school-record 815 yards, they allowed the Bears to put up 492.
Second-year defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross’s unit looked lost early in the game, missing tackles and leaving Missouri State receivers wide open. Following what was surely an unpleasant halftime chat, the defense held the Bears scoreless in the third quarter and allowed only eight points in the fourth.
Against an FCS foe, it’s unacceptable to give up 492 yards and 43 points, so Mizzou needs to find some answers quickly. If they don’t, Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley will have a field day against the Tigers’ secondary this Saturday.
2. Drew Lock is the real deal
Yes, Lock’s huge, record-setting day (see Game Balls below) came against an FCS opponent, but plenty of other Mizzou quarterbacks have played lesser teams and haven’t put up the numbers Lock did on Saturday.
He still has to prove it against SEC opponents, and next week’s game against South Carolina is a great opportunity for him to continue building confidence. After Saturday, it’s hard to imagine him taking a major step back as the season goes on.
3. The offensive skill positions are loaded
Nine players caught passes from Lock on Saturday, led by senior WR J’Mon Moore, who had four grabs for 187 yards and two scores.
The running game was also impressive, with RB Damarea Crockett rushing for more than 200 yards and true freshman Larry Rountree III making a solid debut.
Lock has plenty of weapons around him, and that will make the Mizzou offense a nightmare to defend this fall, even if the Tigers aren’t going to be putting up 72 points every week.
Lock had a record-setting day and the running game held up its end of the bargain, helping the Tigers to a total of 815 yards. Everything offensive coordinator Josh Heupel drew up worked, and the backs and receivers had some incredible individual efforts as well.
This would have been a solid F if not for a decent second-half performance. Still, the effort was an overall disappointment and not at all what the Tigers were hoping for. The secondary blew several coverages and the linebackers were out of place and ineffective all day long.
The only bright spot was junior DL Rashad Brandon, who recorded five tackles (2.5 for a loss and 1 sack). More Tigers will have to follow Brandon’s lead in the coming weeks if Mizzou is going to pick up a couple more victories.
Special teams: C
K Tucker McCann continues to be a problem spot, as he missed his first extra-point try and then sent the ensuing kickoff sailing out of bounds, but the rest of the Tigers’ special-teams units performed well.
P Corey Fatony didn’t get much work, but the returners had a couple of nice gains.
Overall, it was a mixed bag for Mizzou, but the Tigers are sure to get a better look at those units next weekend against South Carolina.
Whatever Odom said to his defense at halftime clearly worked. Now, the challenge becomes channeling that second-half performance and playing that way for four quarters when South Carolina comes to town next week.
Yes, a win’s a win, but allowing 43 points to an FCS squad is never ideal, even in the first game of the season.
The offense was great, but the defense looks as though it may be even worse than last year’s disappointing unit.
The Tigers have bowl aspirations this year, but they’re going to need to get a lot better in a hurry if they’re going to win six games and qualify for postseason play.
QB Drew Lock
This week’s game balls are all about the offense, starting with Lock, who broke a couple of school records.
With seven touchdown passes, Lock broke Chase Daniel’s record of five in a game and, with 521 passing yards, he broke the school record for individual passing yards in a game (480) and team passing yards in a game (519).
Yes, it came against an FCS opponent, but it’s still clear why expectations are sky high for Mizzou’s junior quarterback this fall.
RB Damarea Crockett
Crockett only got 18 carries, but he certainly made the most of them, running for a whopping 202 yards (11.7 per carry) and two touchdowns.
He showed great shiftiness in the open field and also ran over a couple of Missouri State defenders.
It’s unrealistic to expect the talented sophomore to put up similar numbers against top SEC defenses, but there’s no reason to think he can’t have a huge season if he can stay on the field.
WR Johnathon Johnson
Johnson took a short pass from Lock on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage and turned it into a 65-yard touchdown.
From there, he only continued to impress, making five catches for 116 yards and two scores.
The Tigers have a dynamic player in the redshirt sophomore receiver, so getting him the ball like they did on Saturday should continue to be a big focus moving forward.
S Anthony Sherrils had to be helped off the field during the game, but was able to return a few plays later, so his injury wasn’t serious.
Other than that, Mizzou made it through the tough Week 1 contest relatively unscathed.