University of Missouri

Defensive struggles sour Mizzou football’s record-setting offensive show in opening win

Barry Odom reacts to Mizzou's season-opening win

University of Missouri coach Barry Odom broke down the defense's struggles during a season-opening 72-43 victory Saturday against Missouri State at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.
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University of Missouri coach Barry Odom broke down the defense's struggles during a season-opening 72-43 victory Saturday against Missouri State at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

Missouri’s offense and defense both posted record-setting days Saturday against Missouri State in the 2017 season opener at Memorial Stadium.

For junior quarterback Drew Lock — who set single-game Tigers records for passing touchdowns (seven), passing yards (521) and total offense (515 yards) — it was a dream start.

He led Mizzou to a school-record 815 yards with sophomore running back Damarea Crockett becoming the first player in school history with back-to-back 200-yard games.

The defense’s records weren’t as welcome and inspiring during the Tigers’ 72-43 victory against the Bears, who are coached by former MU assistant Dave Steckel.

In fact, the offense’s records may not have occurred if the game didn’t remain in doubt well into the fourth quarter.

“The bad and the ugly — how we played on the (defensive) side of the ball — all those fingers point directly at me,” second-year Mizzou coach Barry Odom said. “We didn’t play worth a darn in the first half. I thought we tackled poorly. I thought our intensity wasn’t very good.”

University of Missouri safety Kaleb Prewett discusses the first-half struggles for the Tigers' defense during a 72–43 victory against Missouri State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

Approaching 5 minutes remaining before halftime, Missouri State led 35-34 before Lock and company put the hammer down and the defense found its legs — but not before the Bears had tallied the most points against the Tigers by an Football Championship Subdivision foe.

In fact, the last seven FCS teams MU has faced totaled only 51 points dating back to 2010, so it was a shocking turn of events that elicited repeated boos from the crowd of 50,131.

“We kind of took them a little lightly and the first half we were kind of in cruise control for I don’t know what reason,” MU senior strong safety Anthony Sherrils said.

Missouri State rang up an astonishing six touchdowns and 492 yards, including 380 in the first half, and 353 yards passing from sophomore quarterback Peyton Huslig.

The Bears marched 12 plays for their first touchdown and led 21-20 after the first quarter thanks to senior tailback Calan Crowder’s 75- and 34-yard touchdown runs.

Huslig’s third-and-24 dart to senior Malik Earl, who scorched DeMarkus Acy in coverage and ran right through senior safety Anthony Hines’ attempted tackle for an 89-yard touchdown, provided that 35-34 lead in the first half.

“We can’t give up big, explosive plays like they had today,” said junior linebacker Kaleb Prewett, a Kansas State transfer and Blue Springs graduate.

Fortunately, Mizzou’s offense was every bit as explosive.

The first play from scrimmage was a 65-yard touchdown pass from Lock to sophomore slot receiver Johnathon Johnson.

“It took me back to (West Virginia last year) when I think we scored our first touchdown with 1:15 left in the game,” Lock said. “To start off going out there and throw a little 7-yard hitch to JJ and him do the rest, it felt pretty good.”

After Crockett added an 8-yard touchdown run on his first carry, kicking off a day that featured 18 carries for 202 yards with two touchdowns (and another called back on a rare unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for diving over the goal line), Lock added four more first-half touchdowns, including a pair of 50-yard bombs to senior J’Mon Moore.

“They played a lot of the defense we saw on film, which made it easier for us,” Lock said. “I don’t know much about what the defense was looking at for their offense, but we got what we expected out of them and took advantage of it.”

Crockett’s second score, a dipping and darting 11-yard run to close out the second-quarter scoring, pushed Missouri in front 48-35 at halftime.

“Coach told us not to look at the scoreboard, just to keep going out there and keep playing,” said Johnson, who finished with a team-high five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. “ … We never tried to get too worried about the score and kept playing like we know we can play.”

Lock’s program-record sixth touchdown came on a 27-yard pitch-and-catch with redshirt freshman tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the third quarter, and he hit senior Dominic Collins with a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for good measure.

Lock broke Jeff Handy’s single-game passing yards record (480 vs. Oklahoma State in 1992) and Brad Smith’s single-game total offense record (480 vs. Nebraska in 2005) with a 52-yard bomb to Moore in the fourth quarter.

Moore finished with four catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m glad to be 1-0, fortunate to be 1-0, and really thankful for the way that our offense played today,” Odom said.

Junior safety Cam Hilton was ejected for targeting on a crackback block on a punt return in the third quarter. The play was confirmed upon review and Hilton will miss the first half against South Carolina next week.

University of Missouri beat writer Tod Palmer breaks down a 72–43 win for the Tigers on Sept. 2, 2017 Saturday against Missouri State at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

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