As he leaned against a light post at Ross-Ade Stadium, Barry Odom didn’t sound all that much like a coach who’s 3-0 for the first time in his career.
He talked of injuries that led to his secondary’s struggles, and the inability of his staff to agree on a play-call for a fourth-down situation, and the currently unknown whereabouts of his pass rush and defense.
“I’m exhausted,” Odom said. “It wasn’t pretty a lot of times.”
Somehow, some way, Missouri beat Purdue 40-37 Saturday night. The victory was sealed on a 25-yard field goal by Tucker McCann in the final seconds.
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The game had all the ingredients for a loss. The Tigers’ issues ranged from a blocked field goal to a 74-yard completion that came off a pass that ricocheted off safety Cam Hilton’s helmet.
Yet despite all the bad, Missouri still claims it feels like it has the momentum it needs for a major showdown against Georgia next Saturday.
“We just had so many things not go our way (against Purdue),” MU offensive lineman Paul Adams said. “And we were still winning at that point.”
Twice, the Tigers blew double-digit leads.
After jumping out to a 27-10 lead halfway through the second quarter, Missouri gave up 14 points in less than three minutes. David Blough, Purdue’s backup quarterback, led the Boilermakers on two drives within the final three minutes of the fist half, the first of which was aided by Missouri penalties and multiple holes left by the defense.
“There was a time in the game where you thought it was opened up on our side,” Odom said.
After Purdue cut the Tigers’ lead to 10, at 27-17, Missouri drove down the field and got as far as the Boilermakers’ 32-yard line. Earlier in the game, Odom decided to gamble on fourth and eight and it paid off: quarterback Drew Lock hit freshman Jalen Knox for a 59-yard touchdown on a skinny post. Lock threw for 375 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
But Odom and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley later came to what the head coach referred to as an “indecision,” and the result was a 50-yard field-goal attempt by McCann. The kick was blocked and returned to Purdue’s 45-yard line. With 32 seconds left in the half, Blough exposed more of Missouri’s defense and made it a three-point game going into halftime.
It wasn’t the first time things went downhill quickly for Missouri. Last season against South Carolina, the Tigers had early momentum against the Gamecocks before a Deebo Samuel kick-return touchdown and interception thrown by Lock on the following series.
This time, things were different.
“This was a growing up period for us and it’s huge for us,” Adams said. “It hit us after the game — the odds were against us.”
After Purdue tied the game at 27 with 8:27 left in the third quarter, Lock got the lead back with his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks. A McCann field goal toward the end of the third quarter gave Missouri a 37-27 edge.
The Tigers’ defense was being held together by junior linebacker Cale Garrett, who had eight tackles Saturday. He cleaned up a lot of mistakes created by Missouri’s absentee pass-rush.
Tigers cornerback DeMarkus Acy went out after the first play of the game, putting the spotlight on redshirt freshman Terry Petry. Blough bullied Petry all night, usually throwing to whichever receiver he was covering.
Blough’s 572 passing yards were the most allowed in a single game in Missouri history — as well as the most ever by a Purdue quarterback — and Acy’s absence enabled that. Boilermakers freshman Rondale Moore had 137 receiving yards with a touchdown and caused problems for Missouri’s entire defense.
“We were a little too tentative when we were in man coverage on him,” defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said. “We were giving him too much space.”
With Missouri needing Lock to make a play, the Lee’s Summit native was picked off at the 19-yard line on an overthrow to Knox on a scramble.
Still, Missouri’s defense found a way to make stops, and even got a gift from the football-official heavens when Jared Sparks 12-yard touchdown was called back after a review with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter. Purdue settled for a field goal, and the game was tied at 37 until the final seconds.
McCann’s field goal as time expired kept Missouri undefeated heading into its game against Georgia, but the Tigers don’t feel unbeaten. Georgia is Missouri’s biggest home game of the season. Now the Tigers look ahead to this game with a checklist of things to address, and the hope of keeping it close.
Senior wideout Emanuel Hall missed most of the game to hip tightness but returned for the final series for a key 25-yard catch to move Missouri into the red zone. He said MU’s confidence is where it should be for a 3-0 team but thinks Saturday’s narrow win at Purdue might be a blessing in disguise considering what lies ahead.
Missouri is on the doorstep of its toughest stretch of the season, with Georgia, followed by South Carolina, followed by Alabama.
“We needed this game going into Georgia,” he said. “Games like this make you a really good team. I’d rather have gone like this than blow them out.”