Rapid Reaction: Mizzou continues to struggle defensively in awful homecoming loss to Middle Tennessee
When Middle Tennessee jumped out to an early 10-0 lead over Missouri on Saturday afternoon, many Tiger fans started to panic.
After two lackluster efforts against LSU and Florida, it looked like Saturday’s homecoming game was going to be a depressing affair.
However, the Tigers quickly rebounded, but still trailed 34-28 going into halftime.
From there, though, the early panic turned out to be warranted. The offense became stagnant in the second half and the defense continued its dramatic backslide.
Ultimately, the Tigers’ comedy of errors prevented them from being able to overcome the minor deficit and the team dropped to a dismal 2-5 with a 51-45 loss to the Blue Raiders.
Here’s a quick look at what I liked and what I didn’t from Mizzou’s season-crushing home loss:
What I liked
Drew Lock can run a little bit: Though there was plenty not to like about sophomore QB Drew Lock’s performance, he did show more running the football than he has thus far in his career.
At halftime, he had 44 yards on seven carries, breaking one of those runs for 24 yards.
He fumbled after a long run in the second half, but the Tigers were able to pounce on the loose ball and avoid any further embarrassment.
Damarea Crockett making his Freshman All-American case: What a first half for freshman RB Damarea Crockett — 19 carries, 85 yards and three touchdowns.
He finished the game with a whopping 156 yards and four scores on 29 carries.
Crockett has probably been the Mizzou MVP this season and has come on strong of late. He was one of few bright spots in last week’s loss to the Florida Gators and is becoming a star for the Tigers.
Ray Wingo’s big series: Sophomore WR Ray Wingo made two big plays in a fourth-quarter touchdown drive for the Tigers.
First, he recovered Lock’s fumble (see above). A couple of plays later, he caught an important touchdown pass to cut Middle Tennessee’s lead to 48-45.
Wingo seems to have a knack for making big plays. The Tigers should lean on the sophomore more often moving forward.
Big stop for defense to start the third quarter: The much-aligned Mizzou defense (see below) did come up with a big stop to start the third quarter.
However, the offense failed to seize on the momentum and quickly became inept again.
What needs work
Lost: Mizzou defense: Seriously, what’s going on with the Tigers’ defense? Missed tackles, big plays and general ineptitude plagued DeMontie Cross’s unit again on Saturday afternoon.
Through three quarters, the Tigers had given up 41 points and 441 total yards to a Conference USA team. That should embarrass the once-proud Missouri defense.
Yes, a couple of key players were injured, but there’s no scenario in which Mizzou’s defensive performance was acceptable.
Also, making tackles is always preferable to not making tackles, but it seems like every other play, the Tigers tackle a player forward for an extra two or three yards.
Finally, if anyone finds potential first-round NFL Draft pick Charles Harris, please return him to Columbia ASAP. The Tigers certainly could use him.
Catch/hang on to the football: In the first half alone, freshman WR Johnathon Johnson had three drops and WR J’Mon Moore made a nice catch and then had the football poked out on the ensuring run.
It’s been a problem that’s hurt the Tigers all season. If the current receivers can’t consistently do their jobs, the Mizzou coaches need to find some players who can.
The momentum-killing penalties have to stop: Seemingly every time the Tigers would get a big third-down stop, it would be nullified by a penalty.
With the aforementioned defensive struggles, getting off the field is important in third-down situations. Nearly every Mizzou penalty quickly led to a Middle Tennessee score.
There were also so many 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties that were just plain stupid.
If the Tigers keep shooting themselves in the foot, they may not win another game this season.
Call your own defensive plays, Barry: It’s time for first-year head coach Barry Odom to pull a Charlie Strong and start calling his own defensive plays.
Under Odom last year, Mizzou boasted one of the 10 best overall defenses in the country. This year, there’s a chance Cross’s unit finishes as one of the 10 worst.
Whatever Odom did last year worked and whatever Cross is doing this year isn’t. Seven games is enough of a sample size to know that a change needs to be made.
Injuries: It was heartbreaking to see senior LB Michael Scherer have to leave with a knee sprain. Senior CB John Gibson also left with a knee sprain and RB Ish Witter took a vicious shot to the head and left the game (though he returned before the end of the half).
The Tigers have largely escaped major injuries this season and it seems that luck caught up to them against Middle Tennessee.
Here’s hoping those key players (along with RG Alec Abeln who was ruled out before the game) can return soon.
Next Saturday, Mizzou (2-5 overall, 0-3 in SEC play) will host the Kentucky Wildcats in an SEC East showdown.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. Central time and can be seen on the SEC Network.