The Missouri Tigers are tumbling and struggling — and it doesn’t get any easier.
After two losses as double-digit favorites, they were shut out 27-0 by Georgia Saturday in the latest blow of a three-game losing streak. A team once seemingly in the running for an SEC East title no longer controls its own destiny. Next up is another top-10 team in Florida, though at least this time it’s at home.
Mizzou’s Barry Odom has always been a player’s coach, which might help his cause right now. A fractured locker room would only make the rest of the season a grind. By all indications, Odom still believes in his players and what he can get out of them.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the locker room and I know what I got,” Odom said. “We’re not where we want to be, but we’ve got three games left and we’re going to go push. We’re going to keep swinging.”
Here are this week’s grades for the offense, defense and special teams, including a preview of what’s next for Mizzou.
Play of the game
Taylor Powell’s interception: The Missouri offense displayed a shred of life Saturday night. The Tigers were moving the ball and passing it well, inching toward the red zone. At this point, early in the second quarter, Georgia held a 10-0 lead.
Even if Mizzou didn’t score a touchdown and settled for a field goal, that still would’ve made it a one-possession game. But Powell overthrew tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and it was intercepted.
Thwarting the Tigers’ hopes of putting up some points, Richard LeCounte returned the ball to the Mizzou 18-yard line, setting up another field goal for Georgia. While this one play likely didn’t change the final outcome of the game, it was a demoralizing moment.
Offense: F. Little went right for the Mizzou offense. Considered a game-time decision, Kelly Bryant didn’t play, which meant Powell’s first career start was on the road against a top-10 defense.
There was little spark from the offense. Even with Bryant starting, Mizzou hadn’t played well in its previous two games. Powell struggled all night while the MU offense produced six three-and-outs.
The lone positive was, perhaps surprisingly, true freshman Connor Bazelak. He entered the game in the fourth quarter and moved the ball well on his first drive. The 17-play, 76-yard possession he orchestrated was the Tigers’ best of the day, even though it ended with a turnover on downs.
Defense: B. MU’s defense was put in difficult positions often. But for the most part, it stood strong. Georgia’s offense had to settle for five field goals. That left the door cracked, at least in theory, for a potential comeback. Georgia finally broke the game open on a Jake Fromm touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
So we’ll say the defense mostly did its job. It’s difficult to grade the Tigers much lower than this based on what they showed Saturday against an elite team.
Special teams: C. On the bright side, there was no special teams disaster by way of a turnover or missed field goal. But once again, Mizzou just didn’t do much on special teams. Tucker McCann punted nine times with varying results, averaging 43.2 yards per. There were a few times that field position worked in favor of Mizzou, but otherwise it was a ho-hum day.
Things don’t get easier for Mizzou. The Tigers play host to a top-10 Florida team coming off a blowout of Vanderbilt. But there are some potential positives ahead.
Finally home: For the first time in more than a month, the Tigers will be back at Faurot Field. The schedule has been unforgiving, Mizzou dropping every road game on its way to a three-game losing streak. MU has looked like a different team at home. Nobody seems to know why, but the Tigers are 5-0 at home, 0-4 away. While that’s not great, home field might give Mizzou a needed boost.
Gator meat: Mizzou has Florida’s number, at least lately. The Tigers are on a two-game winning streak against the Gators, both wins coming via blowouts. Last year’s win was a 38-17 road victory over nationally ranked Florida. There’s some history here, and for once, it’s a positive for Mizzou.