With consecutive games against No. 2 Georgia, South Carolina and No. 1 Alabama, Mizzou fans looked at Saturday’s game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. as the one they could get at the start of the SEC schedule.
Alas, the Tigers fell at the end on a big play by a tight end from their own back yard…Kyle Markway of Vianney here in St. Louis…and a game-winning kick with two seconds left by South Carolina.
Here’s a six pack of takeaways from Mizzou’s 37-35 loss…
1) Drew Lock is struggling against the SEC: After throwing for 1,062 yards, eleven touchdowns and one interception against UT-Martin, Wyoming and Purdue, Lock has thrown for just 425 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions against SEC foes Georgia and South Carolina. In the first three non-conference games, he completed 69% of his passes, and in the last two he’s completed 47.6%. Granted, Lock was missing Emmanuel Hall and Nate Brown at South Carolina, but he just doesn’t possess the same poise and accuracy against better teams. There’s nothing wrong with scoring 35 points at Williams-Brice Stadium, but Mizzou left points on the field because of Lock’s miscues. He was 1-11 in red zone passing, and tossed a costly pick-six in the third quarter that turned out to be the key play in the game.
2) The running game has kicked in: While Lock has regressed, running backs Damarea Crockett, Larry Roundtree III and Tyler Badie have become a three-headed monster. As a team, Mizzou ran for 286 yards against S.C., and Crockett ran for 154 yards on 20 carries, and has run for 353 yards and five yards per carry in five games. Roundtree ran for 90 and has 383 on the season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Badie is a terrific specialty back. He’s run for 234 yards on the season and has six catches out of the backfield, too. At 211.6 rushing yards per game, the Tigers are 34th in the country, and their 4.8 yards per attempt are 41st in the country.
3) Mizzou didn’t deal well with distractions: With a 23-14 halftime lead, Barry Odom told Tiger Network field reporter Chris Gervino that his team needed to deal with distractions, and that they’d talked about it all week. But when Crockett had a 70-yard run called back to the eleven-yard line after an official review (which indicated he went out of bounds), the Tigers unraveled. Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was hit with a false start, and then Crockett took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. On second-and-29 from the thirty, an incomplete pass was followed by another false start penalty. Crockett ran for a yard before an attempted punt on fourth-and-33, but Cory Fatony mishandled the snap and was tackled at the Gamecock 46-yard line.
A first-and-10 at the 11 turned into South Carolina’s ball at the 46, and they drove to a field goal that made it 24-23. The Tigers didn’t handle the third quarter rain very well, either…and were outscored 17-0 in that frame, with one TD coming on the Sherrod Green pick-six of Lock, and the other coming when the Tigers couldn’t stop a fourth-and-3 attempt that SC converted and turned into a touchdown.
4) The kicker is fine: Tucker McCann was 5-for-6 on field goals…missing a 25 yarder in the rain…and hit a clutch 57 yarder that gave Mizzou the lead with 1:18 left. The first four of his attempts were red zone chances that the Tiger offense failed to convert on. McCann did everything he could to help his team win.
5) There are no excuses for the defense: They allowed 30 points (Lock had the pick-six) and couldn’t cover Vianney’s Markway on South Carolina’s game winning drive. Gamecock senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia was 20-of-35 for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Mizzou allowed a QB making his first start to shred them on a regular basis. Scarnecchia deserves credit, but the blown coverage on that play is incomprehensible.
6) Odom and his coaching staff provided a mixed bag: This was a tough one to coach because of an hour weather delay late in the fourth quarter, but both teams had to deal with it. To their credit, Mizzou was prepared and drove to the lead field goal after the break, but they did allow the Gamecocks to mount their own game winning drive in the final 1:18. This was a good test on the road and Mizzou failed. And the lack of composure in the third quarter, when Missouri had a chance for more points at the 11-yard line is a direct reflection on the head coach. Overall, the offensive game plan was solid. But for the second game in a row, the Tigers shot themselves in the foot with mistakes that caused them to lose and the defense…Odom’s specialty…was carved up by a QB making his first start.
Next week, the Tigers are at Alabama…and even if they play their perfect game, the Crimson Tide’s talent will likely overwhelm them. South Carolina was the game Mizzou had to get during this rugged three-game SEC stretch, but with this loss, it would appear they’ll go 0-3 in the conference.