In brutal conditions facing a top-10 team with one of the best defenses in the country, the Missouri Tigers were also forced to start their backup quarterback on the road.
For an offense struggling to get it together after two subpar performances, it was another of many roadblocks. Kelly Bryant’s strained hamstring held him out against the Georgia Bulldogs, and Taylor Powell made his first career start.
But Mizzou’s offense never looked comfortable, totaling 198 yards and recording six three-and-outs. The Tigers were shut out for the first time since 2014, when Georgia blanked them 34-0.
What was once a team eyeing an SEC East division title has dropped three straight road games. Mizzou’s offense has combined for 21 points in those three losses, stalling after a strong start to the season.
“We got to be able to score points,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “It doesn’t matter how many yards rushing or passing we do or don’t have. Somehow, some way, we gotta put points on the board. I can’t be standing here next week saying the same thing. We gotta find a way as a staff, be able to move the ball in the right area to come away with points.”
Powell said he knew Wednesday he was going to be the starter at Georgia. Bryant was considered a game-time decision and went through pregame warm-ups, even padding up.
But Bryant ultimately didn’t play, which opened the path for Powell. The redshirt sophomore completed 10 of 22 passes for 84 yards and one interception. Between the crowd noise and circumstances of a road game, it was a difficult position for a first career start.
“Obviously, didn’t get the job done,” Powell said. “Lots of things we can improve. Thought we did some good things. Just seemed like every time we were getting a drive going, something would happen. Put a lot of that on me.”
Between Powell and Bryant’s different styles, it also shifted the game plan for the Tigers. Odom said the staff also changed things up, mainly in not moving the pocket as much and getting the ball out quicker.
That also alters things for the wide receivers, wideout Barrett Banister said, especially when it comes to Bryant’s scrambling abilities.
“With Kelly, you have to prepare for a quarterback run a little bit more,” Banister said. “When a play breaks down, Kelly’s moving around. Taylor’s a little bit more of a pocket passer. That changes just a little bit of your mindset as a receiver of what’s going on back in the pocket.”
With the offense struggling and Georgia up multiple scores late, it also meant Connor Bazelak was inserted into the game at quarterback. Bazelak, a true freshman, brought a little spark, including what ended up as Mizzou’s best drive of the game. He led a 17-play, 76-yard drive that ended on a turnover on downs at Georgia’s 4-yard line. Before that, a seven-play, 30-yard drive was Mizzou’s best offensive showing, though it ended on an interception.
The Tigers again were unable to run the ball, collecting 50 yards rushing, a season-low. It was an emphasis for Mizzou leading up to Saturday, all in hopes of moving the ball and physically imposing its will on the opposition. But there were little running lanes as Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie combined for 43 yards on the ground.
Overall, Odom said there weren’t enough explosive plays from the offense. In the pass game, he pointed out how the receivers didn’t get open, the stout Georgia secondary putting even more pressure on Powell.
The offense did get Albert Okwuegbunam more involved. He was targeted nine times. He he caught four of those targets for passes, one of them, though, resulting in an interception after Okwuegbunam was overthrown.
Banister said they tried to get Powell easy throws and completions, attempting to get him comfortable on the road. But he added there’s only so much you can do against Georgia’s top-10 defense.
“You can’t come down to Georgia and play conservative football and expect to come out here and win this game,” Banister said.
Mizzou has three more chances to right some wrongs, including qualifying for a bowl, pending the NCAA appeal. The Tigers host top-10 Florida next Saturday, their first home game since Oct. 12.
“We’re going to need to score some points in the last three weeks to have a chance in each one of the games,” Odom said. “Nobody feels sorry for us, we got to find a way to go do it. So go back to work.”