Rapid Reaction: Mizzou offense shines, defense avoids embarrassment behind strong second half
Mizzou fans can breathe easy now that the final whistle has blown in Columbia.
What started out as a nerve-wracking game against FCS foe Missouri State eventually turned into a lopsided 72-43 victory over the Bears.
Thanks to junior QB Drew Lock’s record-breaking performance, the Tigers are now 1-0, but still have a lot of work ahead of them if they’re going to become bowl-eligible this year.
Here are a few things I liked and a couple of things that need work in the aftermath of Mizzou’s Week 1 win:
What I liked:
1. A record-setting day for the offense
It’s tough to start a season better than the Tigers did. Gaining possession on their own 35-yard line, QB Drew Lock fired a screen pass to WR Johnathon Johnson, who promptly sprinted 65 yards for a touchdown.
On the next drive, RB Damarea Crockett scored on his first touch of the game, getting his 2017 season off to a good start. For good measure, Johnson added a second touchdown catch on the Tigers’ third drive of the game.
Meanwhile, Lock set the Mizzou single-game touchdown record by throwing for seven against the Bears, breaking the mark of five held by Chase Daniel. He later broke the single-game yardage record of 480 yards and also single-handedly broke the team single-game passing record of 519 yards for good measure.
Though there were certainly a couple mistakes that second-year OC Josh Heupel would like to fix, nearly everything the Mizzou offense tried on Saturday worked, which is an encouraging sign going forward.
2. Getting the tight ends involved
The Tigers didn’t utilize their tight ends much last year, something that needs to change in 2017 in order to unlock the full potential of the offense.
Though the tight ends didn’t get as much action as the talented wide receiving corps on Saturday, they did get a fair amount of work.
Jason Reese and Albert Okwuegbunam each caught touchdown passes from Lock and Kendall Blanton had two catches for 41 yards in the victory.
3. Barry Odom’s halftime speech
The Mizzou defense was atrocious in the first half (see below), but the second half was a different story, as the Tigers came out and got a series of stops.
The halftime locker room couldn’t have been fun to be in, but kudos to Odom for getting his guys to regroup and come out strong.
One can only wonder what the second-year coach said to his unit during the intermission, but it’s safe to say it probably wasn’t very nice.
What needs work:
1. Seriously, Tucker?
After a terrible freshman season, sophomore K Tucker McCann got off to a less-than-ideal start for the Tigers in 2017.
Following Johnson’s first-drive touchdown, McCann came in and promptly missed an extra point and then sent a kickoff out of bounds.
Maybe it’s time to see if anyone else on the Mizzou campus can kick.
2. Paging anyone who can tackle
Seriously, what is wrong with the Missouri defense? Not even FCS opponents allow 35 points in a single half to the Bears.
There wasn’t a single unit that played well in the first half, as the defensive line got no pass rush, the linebackers couldn’t tackle anyone and the secondary couldn’t cover anyone.
Though things got significantly better in the second half, it was still a lackluster overall effort for DC DeMontie Cross’s much-maligned unit.