Be careful what you wish for.
Missouri’s schematic changes on defense left some fans apoplectic as the losses piled up during Barry Odom’s first season as head coach.
As the Missouri’s defensive coordinator, Barry Odom was the architect of one of the top Football Bowl Subdivision defenses last season before his offseason promotion and new defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross’ switch to a read-and- react style drew considerable ire.
Aiming to halt a month-long skid, the Tigers reverted to last year’s defense Saturday against Kentucky at Memorial Stadium.
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“As we got into last week together as a defensive staff, I ended up calling (the defense) today … and I’m going to continue in that role,” said Odom, who said Cross and the position coaches remain critical to establishing a game plan and he seeks feedback, input and opinions during games. “But it’s on me. I’m calling it.”
It amounted to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic during a 35-21 loss against the Wildcats, the Tigers’ 10th straight loss in SEC action.
Mizzou, 2-6 and 0-4 in the SEC, got gashed for 582 yards, including an unsightly 377 yards rushing — and there’s no way to pin this on Cross’ failed scheme.
“Plain and simple, everything went back to our old defense from last year …,” senior cornerback Aarion Penton said. “For the older guys and people that’s been here, we didn’t have a problem with communication or a problem with playing fast. As far as for the younger guys, I feel like they picked up the old stuff pretty good.”
It just didn’t have the desired effect.
The Tigers allowed more than 500 yards for a fourth consecutive game, the first time that’s happened in 126 years of MU football.
Kentucky freshman running back Benny Snell Jr. served as the workhorse, totaling 38 carries for 192 yards with two touchdowns, while junior Stanley “Boom” Williams was the game-breaker, racking up 19 carries for 182 yards with two touchdowns (including a 13-yard reception on a third-quarter screen pass).
“I’m disappointed in the players, myself included, because Coach Odom’s a guy that I wish I could do anything for him,” said junior cornerback Logan Cheadle, who snagged his first career interception in the second quarter. “Anything he tells me to do, I want to do it and I want to make him proud, so I feel bad for him and for our seniors that our season hasn’t been what we wanted it to be.”
It’s the first time the Wildcats, 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC, have had two rushers top 175 yards in a conference game.
It’s also the most rushing yards Kentucky, which has won three straight SEC games for the first time since 1999, has managed in an SEC game since totaling 409 yards against Vanderbilt on Nov. 7, 1953.
The Wildcats, 5-3 and 4-2 in the SEC, hadn’t won a conference game by more than 10 points under fourth-year coach Mark Stoops before carving up the Tigers, who’ve allowed at least 287 yards rushing in three consecutive games.
“We’re not playing very good football,” Odom said. “I look in the mirror, and I’ve got to find a way to get it fixed. I absolutely am going to. Discouraged? Without question. Very discouraged, but never once did I think this was going to be easy. Never once did I think that we would just breeze through and everything would happen the way I wanted it to.”
Certainly, there was nothing easy about this latest defeat.
In addition to the stylistic changes, Missouri’s defense was forced to shuffle its lineup without four key contributors —senior linebacker Michael Scherer, sophomore defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., senior cornerback John Gibson and senior linebacker Donavin Newsom, who left the game in the first quarter with a strained left quad.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offense started the game with six straight punts and showed no signs of life until midway through the second quarter as the defense absorbed a series of body blows.
“It’s like you’ve got a little brother in high school, and he’s getting picked on and gets beat up,” said sophomore quarterback Drew Lock, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns. “You’ve got to be there for him. The defense is a little beat up right now. They’re trying their best … but we’ve got to do a little more to make some things happen.”
Williams started Kentucky’s victory lap with a 60-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The Wildcats doubled the lead early in the second quarter when junior wide receiver Jeff Badet, who finished with three catches for a game-high 104 yards, got behind Penton on a deep post for a 65-yard touchdown.
Snell added touchdown runs of 1 and 18 yards as the Wildcats built a 35-7 lead.
Lock got Mizzou on the board a few minutes before halftime with a nice scramble and 27-yard dart to freshman Dimetrios Mason, who added a 57-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with four catches for 101 yards.
Freshman kicker Tucker McCann’s miss on a 24-yard field goal to open the third quarter blunted any momentum for the Tigers until the game was decided.
During the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman Johnathon Johnson’s 63-yard punt return to the Wildcats’ 1-yard line set up senior defensive tackle Josh Augusta’s second career rushing touchdown.
Kentucky 35, Missouri 21
TableStyle: SP-byperiodsCCI Template: SP-byperiods
KEN: St.Williams 60 run (MacGinnis kick), 8:41
KEN: Badet 65 pass from S.Johnson (MacGinnis kick), 12:53
KEN: Snell 1 run (MacGinnis kick), 8:40
MIZ: Mason 27 pass from Lock (McCann kick), 2:22
KEN: St.Williams 13 pass from S.Johnson (MacGinnis kick), 5:17
KEN: Snell 18 run (MacGinnis kick), 14:54
MIZ: Augusta 1 run (McCann kick), 10:03
MIZ: Mason 57 pass from Lock (McCann kick), 4:13
TableStyle: SP-footballstatsCCI Template: SP-footballstats
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Kentucky, Snell 38-192, St.Williams 19-182, S.Johnson 2-3. Missouri, Crockett 13-55, Lock 6-34, Zanders 6-28, J.Johnson 1-25, Strong 2-16, Witter 5-11, A.Ross 2-2, Augusta 1-1, (Team) 1-(minus 15).
PASSING: Kentucky, Snell 1-1-0-(minus 3), S.Johnson 14-23-1-208. Missouri, Zanders 1-1-0-9, Lock 18-31-0-220.
RECEIVING: Kentucky, Baker 4-48, Badet 3-104, G.Johnson 3-29, Timmons 2-1, St.Williams 1-13, Bone 1-9, Hart 1-1. Missouri, Culkin 6-53, Mason 4-101, J’.Moore 3-12, J.Johnson 2-27, E.Hall 1-18, Black 1-10, Strong 1-7, Witter 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: Kentucky, MacGinnis 47. Missouri, McCann 24.