The Barry Odom era is underway at Mizzou, with a rather uninspiring 26-11 loss to West Virginia on Saturday that sounded alarm bells for defensive tackle Josh Augusta, who told KansasCity.com that West Virginia “just wanted to win more than we did.” Augusta added that its “a big problem.” The loss was bad, but there was some good, too.
Here are six takes from Mizzou’s loss in Morgantown…
1) Quarterback Drew Lock appears improved. The sophomore turned in career highs by going 28-53 for 280 yards without an interception, and getting 100 yard games from receivers J’Mon Moore and Chris Black. Lock threw with authority most of the time, but still occasionally looked tentative. And when Mizzou needed him most, after recovering a fumble at the Mountaineer seven-yard line late in the first half, Lock couldn’t convert. Yes, the play calling was conservative…two runs went for nothing…but Lock’s third down pass to the 6’7” Justin Smith sailed over Smith’s head. The incompletion was compounded by freshman kicker Tucker McCann missing a 24-yard field goal.
Lock was not great on third downs outside of the second quarter. In the second quarter, he was 4-5 for 78 yards and three first downs. In fact, Lock’s only third down incompletion of the quarter was the miss to Smith.
However, for the rest of the game in third down situations, Lock was 2-10 for 29 yards and two first downs. Those two first downs in the second half came when the game was already out of hand, with West Virginia up by 20-and-23 points, respectively. Lock was better, but still needs to be better than this.
2) The offensive line was better than last year, but… The young group with only three FBS starts coming in (all by Alec Abeln) allowed only one sack. However, the Mizzou running game averaged only 3.8 yards per carry. By contrast, West Virginia piled up a 5.0 yards per carry average. Odom told the Kansas City Star “I’m hopeful that’s as bad as we’ll play all year.” It’s obviously a very young, inexperienced group, and their performance on Saturday should have been expected. And hopefully, they will get better.
3) The defensive line was tossed around. We mentioned West Virginia’s 5.0 yards per carry average on the ground. They ran 48 times for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Mizzou didn’t get to the Mountaineer quarterbacks all day long. Donovin Newsome tackled Skyler Howard for no gain late in the first half and knocked him out of the game for the rest of the half, but that was as much pressure as Mizzou would get. The key to the Tiger defense is the defensive line, and that group can’t be handled…especially by a line missing its left tackle to suspension and its left guard to injury.
4) The defense misses linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who is now a Minnesota Viking. Brothers was EVERYWHERE last year, amassing 152 tackles in a dozen games. Fellow LB Michael Sherrer from MICDS was second on the team with 93 and Parkway North’s Donovin Newsome was fourth with 63. Sherrer did his part on Saturday with a team high ten tackles, and Newsome was second with eight. But Brothers’ replacement, Joey Burkett, finished with only four. West Virginia ran to Burkett often and was able to neutralize him. If the Mizzou defensive line performs well, the athleticism of the linebackers is what the defense falls back on. All three of the linebackers need to play well, and Burkett wasn’t good enough on Saturday.
5) West Virginia ran it down their throat to start the second half. The most disappointing part of the game came in a four-and-a-half-minute span to end the first half and start the second. We mentioned the fumble recovery that led to no points that started with 2:03 left in the second quarter. Then when West Virginia started the third quarter, they slashed through the Mizzou defense for an eight play, 70-yard touchdown drive that featured numerous missed tackles and put the game, because of MU’s offense, out of reach at 20-3. Odom and his staff need their team to be prepared to start the game and the half, and they weren’t to start the second half of this one.
6) The Tigers showed competitiveness to the end. The defense allowed just two touchdowns. With 3:50 left in the game, the Mizzou offense took over at their own 20-yard line. Alex Ross ran four times for 23 yards to start, and then Lock started tossing it around, going 4-5 for 53 yards and a touchdown to Chris Black. Lock then hit Moore for a two-point conversion to make the score 26-11. The club kept competing to the end, despite Augusta’s concerns.
We have to keep in mind that it was Odom’s first game as a head coach, and his team was playing its first game for his staff in a difficult environment. An exceptionally inexperienced offensive line took the field and a ragtag skill group that probably isn’t going to light up the scoreboard kept plugging away. The defense and kicking games need to be better, but when a team is coached well, it should get better every week. We’ll learn a lot about Odom and his staff as this season unfolds.