Despite the first two-game skid in three seasons, Missouri isn’t dealing with a fractured locker room.
In fact, the Tigers, 4-3 overall and 1-3 in conference, are actively guarding against it as the defense continues its season-long dominance, while an inexperienced offense flounders in SEC play.
“You have to set the example,” senior safety and captain Ian Simon said. “You have to make sure that you come out and say no finger-pointing. We’re a team. We’re all in this together.”
The imbalance remains striking.
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Missouri’s defense leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally, allowing 12.9 points per game — the fewest since also allowing 12.9 points in 1981.
The Tigers have given up 27 fewer points than Alabama, which leads the conference in total defense. MU is second and eighth in the country, surrendering only 279.0 yards per game — against the best since 1981.
The passing defense also ranks atop the SEC, and Missouri boasts 65 tackles for a loss, which is the second-most in the country behind Arizona State.
It’s championship-level production and adds up to the best defense of the Gary Pinkel era.
Meanwhile, the offense is statistically the worst among all Power Five programs, so it would be understandable if the defense was miffed.
“It’ll never be like that, because we are too close,” junior linebacker Michael Scherer said. “It’s never a pointing-fingers type of thing. If the offense isn’t doing well, we all know it. Nobody needs to bring it up. Nobody needs to point it out and say ‘it’s your fault.’ ”
The Tigers’ offense averages 290.4 yards, better than only Hawaii and Central Florida among 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
It’s the fewest total yards in program history since 1974. Missouri has only endured one other season in that span, averaging fewer than 300 yards per game (1986).
MU’s scoring offense, which is tied for 125th with Hawaii at 16.6 points per game, is the worst since 1989 even factoring in a blocked-punt return touchdown and safety on special teams.
The last time Missouri’s offense, which generates 63 fewer yards than any other SEC team, scored a touchdown was the third quarter of the South Carolina game on Oct. 3, a span of three games and more than 138 minutes.
The rushing production — an SEC-worst 103.4 yards per game, 23 yards fewer than 13th-place Florida — is the lowest in program history since 1992 and the passing-game production is the lowest since 2003 at 187 yards.
“When I first got here, we were winning games 48-34, so I’ve been on both sides of this,” Pinkel said.
He also hasn’t noticed the defense getting frustrated with the offense.
“We’ve had very few problems with that …,” Pinkel said. “You know that they are working hard and you are going to be encouraging. You can encourage or discourage. In our walls, in this building, we want to encourage positive people.”
Freshman quarterback Drew Lock said he’s extremely appreciative of the support, “because they could obviously turn on us pretty quick. Like, ‘C’mon, we’re out here busting our butts and you’re out here putting up six points and three points per game.’ ”
Then again, needling the offense about its struggles isn’t exactly a solution.
“If that were to happen, things would just keep going downhill,” sophomore Nate Brown said.
That doesn’t mean the offense itself isn’t frustrated.
“Are you asking me, if we averaged 20 points a game, we would be 7-0 right now? (Heck) yeah, I get it,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “Yeah, I understand it and it’s frustrating. Yeah, it (stinks), and we need to get it fixed.”
GOOD, BAD AND UGLY
Missouri is one of only five teams since 2008 with a team ranked in the top 10 for either scoring or total defense and the bottom 10 in either scoring or total offense, including Boston College this season. None of the previous three teams reached a bowl game.
Scoring defense (national rank)
Total defense (rank)
Scoring offense (rank)
Total offense (rank)
12.9 ppg (6 of 128 FBS teams)
279.0 ypg (8)
16.6 ppg (t-125)
290.4 ypg (126)
2015 Boston College
11.0 (4 of 128)
17.5 (t-4 of 128)
19.8 (19 of 124)
16.8 (10 of 120)
* Temple was bowl eligible, but the Owls were not selected to play in any bowl game.