As bad as the offense played, Missouri’s last-ditch effort to force overtime showed promise.
It started with a 16-yard completion from freshman quarterback Drew Lock to sophomore wide receiver J’Mon Moore followed by Lock’s 33-yard scramble to the Vanderbilt 31-yard line.
It was the longest run of Lock’s career on an afternoon he led the Tigers with eight carries for 39 yards.
“The opportunity presented itself and, when that happens, I’ve just got to make plays,” Lock said. “There’s a couple tonight, like the last one on the last drive, that were kind of cool. It was a positive play.”
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The drive stalled from there and the game’s eighth review left Missouri facing fourth-and-24 at the Commodores’ 45 after an incompletion was turned into a 10-yard Adam Butler sack.
The Tigers gained new life thanks to a pass-interference call, but the struggling offense couldn’t cash in on the good fortune.
From the Vanderbilt 13, Lock’s first-down fade to Moore was out of bounds, a corner route to senior Wesley Leftwich sailed high, Lock threw incomplete to senior Tyler Hunt along the sideline on third down and Moore wasn’t able to locate a back-shoulder throw on Missouri’s final snap.
Lock, who finished 14 of 34 for 108 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, said he should have thrown the last pass to Moore’s other shoulder, because the cornerback was playing outside.
“It’s the way the defender plays it,” Lock said. “The first one I threw to him like that I should have thrown more back shoulder, not locked him out and throw him out of the end zone like I did. But that time, I should have played inside, because the corner played outside.”
But that wasn’t the pass in that sequence that really hurt: “The corner I threw to Wesley, because (sophomore tight end) Jason (Reese) was wide open.
Vanderbilt, 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC, lined up in the victory formation after which a fan launched a Tiger with a noose around its neck from the stands.
Fatony’s legend grows
Add another chapter to the Legend of Corey Fatony, whom senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers initially mistook for a running back when he arrived at Missouri in June.
Fatony showed running-back skills and wound up being Missouri’s second-leading rusher Saturday in a 10-3 loss against Vanderbilt on the strength of a 26-yard run on a fourth-and-7 punt fake.
“I had no idea it was coming, but he’s a tough guy,” Brothers said.
It was a mostly new experience for Fatony.
“I played like five plays freshman year at running back,” said Fatony, referring to his time at Franklin (Tenn.) High. “We were prepared for it, so we were ready to go.”
Asked how nervous he was for that snap as opposed to a typical punt snap, Fatony said, “Replace the word ‘nervous’ with ‘excited’ and multiply it by like five.”
Playing 20 minutes from his hometown, Franklin also averaged 47.7 yards per punt on a career-high nine boots, matching his total against Florida from two weeks ago.
“I had quite few people come …,” said Fatony, who relished playing so close to home. “I’ve been to a couple (Vanderbilt games before). It was really cool being in here and playing in here.”
Brown’s near-miss on a TD
Some fans were miffed that sophomore receiver Nate Brown wasn’t credited with a second-quarter touchdown on arguably Lock’s best throw of the night, but the call was correct and the review, which upheld the initial call, also was correct.
“I know for a fact I got my feet down and controlled it,” Brown said. “It was just, when my elbow hit the ground out of bounds, it popped out. That’s on me.”
It’s also not a touchdown, because Brown didn’t complete the catch. The ground cannot cause a fumble, but it can cause an incompletion.
According to the NCAA rulebook, Section 4, Article 3b, is unambiguous on the issue:
“If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. This is also required for a player attempting to make a catch at the sideline and going to the ground out of bounds. If he loses control of the ball which then touches the ground before he regains control, it is not a catch.”
It’s a tough break, but potentially a learning experience for a young, promising receiver.
“With losses like that, you take it to heart,” Brown said. “You go back in the film room and see what you did wrong. … At the end of the day, excuses end in losses.”
Pinkel’s mea culpa
Freshman Cam Hilton muffed a punt with 4:25 remaining. It didn’t hurt on the scoreboard when Vanderbilt’s kicker, Tommy Openshaw, hit the right upright on a 32-yard field-goal try on the ensuing drive.
But it did cost Missouri’s offense valuable time to operate, leaving them with 1:58 to go for a game-tying touchdown after Openshaw’s miss.
“I shouldn’t have had him back there,” Pinkel said. “He’s a freshman, a really talented young guy, but I shouldn’t have had him back there, so I’ll take the hit on that one, too.”