There was certainly a school of thought Saturday before Mizzou hosted Georgia on that the Bulldogs’ history, tradition and name gave them a decided advantage. But as we saw, Mizzou can play with Georgia and it’s now reasonable to think they can compete with their entire schedule.
With that, a six pack of observations of Mizzou’s 28-27 loss…
1) If Drew Lock keeps this up, we may only see him for one more year after this one. Lock is fourth in college football after three weeks with 1,106 yards passing and is tied for sixth with nine touchdown passes. He has more yards after three games than any Mizzou QB ever. He needs to improve upon his 55.6% completion percentage and, after Saturday’s second half, needs to avoid interceptions. But he has the size, arm and demeanor of an NFL quarterback.
His first half against Georgia was sensational, but three second half interceptions set him back. He was 19-29 for 322 yards and two scores at halftime, but had only 54 more yards after that. He tossed three interceptions in the second half, including a devastating throw into double coverage in the end zone from the Georgia 18 with 13:35 left. Mizzou had moved sixty yards on fourteen running plays, but Lock’s interception took points away. Bottom line though: he’s getting better and better and is capable of carrying a team.
2) If Ish Witter is far and away the best back Mizzou has with Alex Ross hurt, they have problems. Witter had 25 carries for 76 yards, 3.0 yards a carry. Damarea Crockett ran 8 times for 23. There just wasn’t enough explosiveness in the Tiger running game. Ross adds some sizzle and they need him back from his ankle injury. But it would make sense for Josh Heupel to try and get one of his faster running backs like redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who runs a 4.5 40, into action.
3) The run defense was shockingly effective. Georgia running backs had 129 yards on 33 carries, and average of 3.9 per carry. The Tigers bottled up Georgia star Nick Chubb to the tune of 19 carries for 64 yards. The defensive line, after experiencing some struggles in the first two games, came to play in this one. They were excellent against the run.
4) Not only the run, but pass rusher Charles Harris found his mojo. Harris has seven tackles, four for losses totaling 23 yards, and three sacks. The entire defense had just one sack coming into the game. Harris was disruptive and dominant. The defense moved him around, and that played into his success. Ricky Hatley also had a sack, and as a unit Harris and company had seven tackles for loss. During the week, defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross asked for more buy-in from his group, and he got it on Saturday.
5) Overall, Mizzou turned the ball over five times and took it away only once. Against a good team, that’s a recipe for disaster. From 2000-2014, FBS teams that finished plus-4 in the turnover battle went 576-60, a .905 winning percentage. So on Saturday night, with that stat alone, the Tigers had a .094 chance of winning. That’s something that Gary Pinkel focused on that Barry Odom is going to have to get his team to care about. That starts with Lock, but J’Mon Moore’s late fumble snuffed out any chance Mizzou had of rallying for a late win.
6) Mizzou’s defense needs to do a better job of getting off the field. On third down, Georgia was 9-20 on Saturday, and went 1-1 on fourth. For the season in three games, the Mizzou defense’s third down percentage is 45.6% is good for 42nd in the country. Teams have used quick hitting pass plays to convert, and Mizzou simply needs to come up with better third-and-fourth down defense.
This would have been a win that allowed Missouri to think about a bowl game. They have a chance against Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas. They can, at the very least, compete with those schools. Delaware State and Middle Tennessee are wins, and games at LSU and Florida are probably losses. So the Tigers are probably going to be 3-4 heading into the final five.
They SHOULD handle Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Beating Georgia would have given them a great shot at a 6-6 regular season. Getting that victory snatched away forces them to beat South Carolina, Tennessee, or Arkansas to be bowl eligible. They showed they’re capable, and now they need to beat one of those teams.