Mizzou’s Problem: Tigers Can’t Finish Strong Enough To Win

Barry Odom’s Mizzou football team fell to 4-4 this season with their 15-14 loss to Kentucky on Saturday, with all four of the losses coming in SEC Play.

Missouri moved to the SEC in 2012, and we all knew that when they did, not only were they entering a league that required more commitment from the athletic program, but they were entering the jungle of college football.  This league is bigger and tougher and more rugged and requires more stamina and grit and perseverance.  This year’s Tigers have the ability to stay in a game against a good team for a while, but they’ve shown no ability to finish in SEC games.  Here’s a look at Missouri’s schedule so far against the best league in America:

  • SEC game one, Georgia-43 Mizzou-29: Despite losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and missing a field goal, the Tigers were only down 13-7 with six minutes left in the first half.  With 5:45 on the clock, Georgia broke through and blocked a Cory Fatony punt deep in M.U. territory, returning it eight yards for a touchdown to make it 20-7.  Georgia scored another touchdown on their first drive of the second half to make it 27-7 and it was game over.  Before the blocked punt for a touchdown, Mizzou’s defense had picked off a pass, forced a punt and held UGA to three field goal tries, two of which were good.  Once they fell behind 20-7, Georgia’s offense was forced to punt once in seven possessions, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal in the process.  At halftime, Mizzou had outgained Georgia 159-148 and trailed 20-7.  In the second half, the Bulldogs outgained the Tigers 297-234 with much of Mizzou’s yardage coming in garbage time.  MU gained 231 of those yards after they had fallen behind by 20.  Not exactly a four-quarter effort.
  • SEC game two, South Carolina 37 Mizzou-35: The Tigers led 23-14 at halftime, and Odom said at the outset of the second half that “it’s going to be a four-quarter game.”  In that third quarter, Mizzou’s four possessions resulted in a punt, a failed fourth down gamble, a pick six and a missed field goal.  South Carolina’s four third quarter possessions resulted in a touchdown, a field goal, another touchdown (on the pick six) and a punt.  Odom’s team did muster some fourth quarter resolve and scored thirteen points to retake the lead.  But then the defense allowed a nine play, 53-yard drive that resulted in the Gamecocks’ game winning field goal with :02 on the clock.  Mizzou was outscored 23-12 after halftime.
  • SEC game three, Alabama-39 Mizzou-10: Even though they should have been waaayyyy behind, the Tigers were down only 13-10 after a quarter in Tuscaloosa.  After the first quarter, Mizzou was outscored 26-0 and outgained 364-101.  Nobody expected them to win at Alabama, but after the first quarter Mizzou might as well have been the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, who were outgained 460-286 at Alabama after one quarter, and were outscored 28-14.
  • SEC game four, Kentucky-15 Mizzou-14:  The is the most egregious loss of composure.  At halftime, Missouri led 14-3 and had outgained UK 200-160.  Even after the third quarter, the Tigers maintained their 14-3 lead.  After their first four drives of the game, Mizzou had a missed field goal, a touchdown, a punt and another touchdown.  On their next EIGHT drives, they ran 24 plays (all three-and-outs) and used a total of 13:18.  You would think with all that practice punting, that Mizzou would have it down.  Yet they allowed a 67-yard return for a touchdown with 5:18 to go in the fourth.  UK’s failed two-point conversion kept it at 14-9.  On their next possession, the Tigers took over at their own 25-yard line.  On 1st and 10, incomplete pass, clock stops.  2nd and 10.  Incomplete pass, clock stops.  3rd and 10.  Nine-yard completion to Jonathan Johnson.  Three plays, nine yards, 1:08 taken off the clock.  But Mizzou got a turnover, getting the ball back with 2:28 to go.  Damaryea Crockett ran it on first and second down, and UK called a time out.  Rather than run one more time and force Kentucky to use another time out, the Tigers inexplicably called a pass.  Incomplete, stops the clock with 1:41 to go.  And with that 1:41…including their remaining time out, UK drove 81 yards in eight plays to the winning score on the final play.  In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats outgained Missouri 167-26 and obviously outscored them 12-0.

Whether this is a leadership issue among the players or (more likely) a coaching issue, Mizzou seems incapable of sustaining multiple quarters of competitive football with their SEC brethren.  Certainly, Georgia and Alabama are going to bring waves and waves of good players at the opposition.  But if Mizzou wants to be a decent team in the conference, they must play until the end of the game.  And so far this year, they haven’t shown any evidence that they can.

–Randy

More: Timeout: Mizzou’s Barry Odom Inherited a Much Better Program Than Kentucky’s Mark Stoops