Through four games, it looked like the Missouri football team’s defining characteristic.
The Tigers’ new-look, lightning-quick, pass-heavy offense was miles ahead of last year’s, which was next to last in the FBS with 16 touchdowns.
Before Saturday night, Lee’s Summit native and Missouri sophomore Drew Lock looked like a different quarterback. Junior J’Mon Moore looked like a different wide receiver. The pace and infusion of strategy by the new coaching staff, specifically offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee, were different.
But not Saturday in Death Valley, not while that progress was shuttered as Missouri scored just one touchdown in LSU’s 42-7 shellacking.
“It’s just embarrassing,” MU sophomore offensive lineman Paul Adams said after the game. “I (don’t) think that what we showed today was who we were. Granted, we haven’t been playing against opponents like LSU.”
On 60 plays against LSU, Missouri was held to 265 yards of total offense. Lock only completed 17 of 37 of his passes for 167 yards and an interception.
“Those guys fly around, they make plays, they hit hard and they play well,” Lock said of LSU. “We’ll just give them credit on this one.”
Missouri’s wide receivers couldn’t separate from LSU’s corners, Lock made misreads, and the offensive line struggled — they’d only given up one sack all year before giving up two Saturday night. Mizzou went three-and-out five times on offense and was nearly tripled in time of possession.
In a way, though, Missouri’s schedule set up for this.
Despite a 26-11 season-opening loss at West Virginia, Lock emerged turnover-free and established a rapport with Moore. The two connected eight times for 104 yards.
The following week against Eastern Michigan, Missouri scored 61 points on the back of 450 passing yards and an MU-record-tying five touchdowns from Lock. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Johnathon Johnson and sophomore Ray Wingo both turned in 100-yard games.
In the first half against Georgia the following week, MU’s offensive success continued. The Tigers scored on their first drive and totaled 20 first-half points, with Lock throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns and Moore catching six passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. But then came the second half, when Lock threw three interceptions that Georgia capitalized on to prevail.
Then came overmatched Delaware State, and Missouri won 79-0 in just 50 minutes of game play. A promising win, but a misleading one in light of the competition — and a theme through the first five games.
Against the three Power 5 opponents in West Virginia, Georgia and LSU, the Missouri offense averaged 399 yards and 15 points per game; whereas against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State, the Missouri offense averaged 672 yards and 70 points per game.
Lock’s performances are similar.: Against the Power Five opponents, Lock completed 51 percent of his passes for 650 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State, he had a 68 percent completion percentage, 852 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Even so, Missouri senior tight end Sean Culkin, who caught a season-high four passes for 35 yards against LSU, said the offense’s performance was “a shock.”
“I thought we had a great week of practice,” Culkin said. “We had a great week of preparation. The offense was good, the effort was high and the morale was high. We were executing, so it’s definitely disappointing.”
Against West Virginia and Georgia, there were some silver linings for the offense, Lock said Saturday night. But not against LSU.
“A loss like that, there’s not much positive to take away,” Lock said. “You never want to look at is as a feel-good loss, but as far as our standpoint goes, we’ve got to watch it, we’ve got to learn from it and we can’t make the same mistakes. We’ve got a lot of games left (and) a lot of times to prove ourselves.”
Alec Lewis: @alec_lewis