Your Mizzou Tigers had a lot of “first’s in a long time” in Saturday’s 26-17 home win over Vanderbilt. They snapped an eleven game SEC losing streak, they turned in their first shutout quarter in eleven quarters going back to the Florida game, and they allowed their fewest points to an SEC foe since last October when they lost to Vandy 10-3.
1) Clearly, Head Coach Barry Odom taking over the defense has paid dividends. Granted, Vanderbilt doesn’t possess a dynamic offense, but the Tiger defense had been allowing big yardage and point totals to less than stellar offenses. They still allowed too many big plays, but they held Vanderbilt to just two touchdowns. Playing with a lead, the Tigers were able to get to Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmer for six sacks, five of those coming from Charles Harris and Marcell Frazier.
The old defensive line coach adage is that you have to earn the right to rush the passer, and the Tigers did that by allowing just 34 yards on eleven carries to Commodores running back Ralph Webb, who came in hoping to go over 1,000 yards. Vandy averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.
2) Quarterback Drew Lock has struggled against SEC competition, but had his best SEC game since the first half against Georgia. Lock went 22-37 for 294 yards and a pair of TD passes to J’Mon Moore. There were a couple of keys for Lock. One was getting a play call that called for him to take a shot downfield after the Mizzou defense stopped Vanderbilt on a 4th and 2 at the Tiger 18-yard line in the second quarter.
Lock went deep to Moore for an 82-yard score that should have swung the momentum completely in Mizzou’s favor. And with the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, Lock led the Tigers on a thirteen play, 85 yard drive that put it away at 26-17. He was more calm and poised than I’ve seen in him a conference game since the first half against Georgia. Hopefully this will turn things for him.
3) The reason Mizzou DIDN’T swing momentum completely in their favor is because freshman kicker Tucker McCann missed two extra points and two field goals. I saw McCann at O’Fallon, where he was rated the top kicker in the country as a senior, and I know he has ability. Like a golfer, he’s dealing with a slump.
It would be wise for Odom and the staff to sit him down until they can get him with a kicking consultant, but he’ll be good. Odom admitted he knows nothing about kickers, but we all know that when a college freshman gets booed as he jogs on for a field goal attempt, he’s going to be affected mentally. Once they get McCann straightened out, he’ll be fine. Until then, Ben Tesson should get the placekicking duties.
4) Most fans liked running back Damarea Crockett early in the season, and he has grabbed the starting role. He ran 20 times for 154 yards and now has 837 yards on the season, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He’s miles ahead of Ish Witter and fits Josh Heupel’s scheme much better than any other back on the roster. At the very least, Mizzou has a back to build around in the freshman.
By the way, in outrushing the Commodores, the Tigers accomplished that feat in an SEC game for the first time this season.
5) The listed attendance was 65,211, but the actual number of people in the stands fell far short of that. That has to be a concern for Mizzou athletics officials. Yes, the team was 2-7 coming in and that contributes to the poor attendance. Missouri’s attendance has been driven by the won-lost record ever since I can remember. That culture won’t change just because they’re in the SEC.
Vandy and Kentucky don’t draw well, and Mississippi and Mississippi State don’t in the western conference. To compete at a high level, on and off the field, this football team needs to win to draw, and to draw to generate the revenue to stay up with other schools in terms of facilities.
6) It was great to see the St. Louis kids contribute in a big way. CBC cornerback Aarion Penton had a nineteen-yard pick-six, Parkway North linebacker Donavin Newsome had seven tackles, and Webster’s Cam Hilton had four. A big part of the key for the Odom regime is going to be getting good players out of the St. Louis area, and if the ones on hand get to play and perform well, that might prompt others to join the program.
Mizzou is on the CBS National TV game at 7-3 Tennessee next Saturday, hopefully they’ll be able to sustain what they did against Vanderbilt and give a good showing to a national audience.