Top 10 Takeaways from Mizzou’s 40-34 loss at Kentucky

1 – For the first time all year, we saw signs of progress.

This team was all but left for dead after three consecutive noncompetitive home losses against South Carolina, Purdue and Auburn. They were outscored 117-20 in those three games after leading South Carolina 10-0 in week two. It was ugly. It was bad. It was rock bottom. But the team responded. Odom gave his speech after the Auburn loss, the team regrouped during the bye week and came out with some fire on the road against a team with a similar level of talent. It wasn’t a win. It wasn’t perfect by any means. But it was progress. For now, Mizzou fans will take it.

2 – Drew Lock had his best game as the starting quarterback at Mizzou. I’m not sure this is even arguable. Lock finished the game 22-for-42 for 355 yards, three touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Lock’s 355 passing yards were the second most of his career against a power-five opponent, behind only his breakout performance last year against Georgia. The difference in this game? Zero interceptions. He was picked off three times by Georgia last year.

There were still moments when Lock looked like a young quarterback – specifically on a couple overthrows – but that was the guy Mizzou fans were expecting coming into the year. A bit too much boom or bust, but there were two throws on Saturday night that very few quarterbacks across the country can make. The first was the corner route to J’Mon Moore early in the game. The second was the deep post to Emanuel Hall. We’ve asked to see this passing offense put up big numbers against a quality opponent. They finally did so on Saturday night.
3 – Mizzou has an offensive identity if they’re willing to stick to it. For as great as Drew Lock was on Saturday night, it was the running game that gives you more hope for the long-term. Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett combined for 213 rushing yards on 29 carries (7.3 yards per carry). Mizzou ran the ball 13 times on first down against Kentucky for a total of 78 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run. On the 12 first down runs not on the goal line, Missouri averaged more than six yards per carry. That’s huge. If Mizzou is able to set up in second and short, the entire playbook opens up. That’s when the deep shots to J’Mon Moore and Emanuel Hall become possibilities. That’s when the play-action passing game to the tight ends become effective. Everything is easier when Mizzou can run the ball effectively on first down.
4 – This team hasn’t given up on its coach. The biggest question coming into the Kentucky game was whether or not the team would give up. Well, they fell behind 10-0 early and found a way to come back and make a game out of it on the road against a Kentucky team that played Florida tough two weeks earlier. You don’t have to like it, but there were legitimate questions as to whether or not this team would keep fighting hard for a coach on the hot seat. They are. That’s a great sign for Barry Odom, so long as it stays that way.
5 – Where has Emanuel Hall been all season? Four catches, 129 yards and a touchdown against a solid Kentucky defense? Why hasn’t Hall been more involved in the offense this season? It’s not like he hasn’t shown an ability to make plays before. It’s puzzling that it took a starting receiver getting dismissed from the team for us to see a full game from Hall. Color me impressed by what he brought to the offense.
6 – It’s time for a full-on youth movement. Barry Odom said after the Auburn game that this is a “turnaround.” We saw the first signs of that on Saturday night against Kentucky. Freshmen Joshuah Bledsoe, Adam Sparks, Larry Rountree, Chris Turner, Kobie Whiteside, Akial Byers, Jerod Alton, Trystan Castillo, Albert Okwuegbunam and Tre Williams all saw extended playing time. Add in sophomores like Damarea Crockett, DeMarkus Acy, Cale Garrett, Yasir Durant, Tre’Vour Simms, Markell Utsey, Ronnell Perkins, Johnathon Johnson & Richaud Floyd, and you have the makings of a very young football team. I would expect to see more of these guys as the season progresses, not less.
7 – The game management continues to be an issue for Mizzou’s coaching staff. I’ve been critical of the way this staff has handled late-game situations before, and that won’t change after the loss at Kentucky. My biggest bone to pick after this loss came on the teams second-to-last drive. They had a 3rd and six at the Kentucky 28-yard line with 6:30 to play. Mizzou decided in that spot they should take a deep shot at the end zone for Albert Okwuegbunam, a player with three receptions for 29 yards in the last four weeks. Next up was a 4th and six from the Kentucky 28. They lined up for a field goal, and it was blocked… To the surprise of nobody. Mizzou’s kicking game has to change the way they manage these situations. On third and six you can’t be going for broke. The staff should know on third down that this is four down territory. Pick up a few, set up in fourth and manageable, and go for it on fourth down. They decided against it, Kentucky kicked a field goal on the next drive, and that set up Mizzou in need of a 75-yard drive with less than two minutes to play. And that’s when the officials took over…
8 – That officiating crew was awful on the final drive. First of all, the officials were not waiting for the chain gang to get set before starting the clock. That’s obviously not ideal, but it happens. The egregious mistake came with 20 seconds to play when Drew Lock completed a short pass to J’Mon Moore who failed to get out of bounds. As Moore was jogging back to the line of scrimmage, a Kentucky player batted the ball out of his hands. That should be a delay of game penalty, but it wasn’t called. It didn’t end there. The officials then took their sweet time setting the ball… And then felt the need to push the ball back another yard. In full, it cost Mizzou at least 5-10 seconds on the clock and another shot at the end zone. It wasn’t the reason Mizzou lost, but it certainly didn’t help.
9 – The entire SEC is basically the same outside of three teams. South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Missouri and Ole Miss are all basically the same teams. On any given night, any of them can beat the other. None of them are good. The SEC, outside of Georgia, Alabama and Auburn, is a tire fire.
10 – It’s too bad this team has to travel to Athens next week. It really feels like Mizzou has something to build on after Saturday night. Drew Lock played his best game as a Tiger. Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter were great on the ground. J’Mon Moore and Emanuel Hall looked like legitimate weapons at receiver. The offensive line did a good job opening up some holes. The defense came up with some key stops… And none of it is going to matter next week against Georgia. Mizzou is about to run into a buzz saw. ESPN’s FPI rankings give Georgia a 97% chance to win. Bill Connelly’s advanced stats have Mizzou losing by a projected score of 40-16. That seems low. This is going to be a blowout. It’s going to be hard to watch. Let’s all regroup in two weeks for homecoming in what should be a win against Idaho, shall we?