Vahe Gregorian

Lock no lock to return to Mizzou despite Texas Bowl loss

Drew Lock talks Tom Herman mocking and loss

The Missouri quarterback discusses the loss to Texas and about being mocked by the opposing coach in Texas Bowl on Dec. 27, 2017.
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The Missouri quarterback discusses the loss to Texas and about being mocked by the opposing coach in Texas Bowl on Dec. 27, 2017.

By the end of Missouri’s miserable 33-16 loss to Texas in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday at NRG Stadium, Texas coach Tom Herman was mocking MU quarterback Drew Lock’s “secure the bag” touchdown shtick that evokes both the Macarena and sliding on a make-believe backpack.

Lock’s response to Herman reflected his class and maturity — not to mention a certain thoughtfulness and ability to consider nuanced aspects of any given situation.

“You can look at it like this is a pretty big program, and when the head coach is mocking your dance move you must be doing something right,” Lock said with a smile. “You’re not a nobody. You’re definitely doing something that is catching people’s attention.”

So Lock was going to walk out of here both with his head held high and with “a little chip on the shoulder” after the gesture by Herman, whose action Lock also appreciated in one way.

“There’s both sides of that. If you’re going to do that, you’re being a players’ coach, really,” he said. “If I was on the team, I would have (dug) it. … ‘Coach is balling with us, he’s out here having fun.’

“But at the same time, you know, you’ve got to realize how the other side is going to take it.”

All of which is a reminder that Lock isn’t prone to impulsive reactions and has a way of looking at things that’s going to be significant and helpful to him in the weeks to come as he determines whether to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft.

No pressure, Drew, but MU’s prospects for next season largely hinge on your decision.

Just the same, he has every right to do what he thinks best even after a game that suggested he could prosper by another year.

Trouble for Mizzou fans is there’s no real way to understand what the analytical process will yield for the junior from Lee’s Summit who set the Southeastern Conference record with 43 regular-season touchdown passes this season.

The NFL Draft advisory board told him to go back to school for his senior year, but before the game he had indicated he was still considering turning pro despite the evaluation the board gives when it doesn’t believe a player will be drafted in the first two rounds.

"I’m actually still considering it, due to things I heard otherwise,” he said Tuesday.

He offered no further clarity after a game in which he completed 18 of 34 passes for 269 yards with a touchdown and an interception (and a fumble) as MU was held 23 points below its season average.

“If we would have come out here and scored 150 points on them it wouldn’t have made a difference; (if we) came out and scored zero, wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Lock, whose 79-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half led to the celebration that was mocked. “I still have things to evaluate still. Want to take in a little more information that I can before the January 15 deadline.”

Taking it to the deadline is a bit of a new stance for Lock, who previously had suggested his decision would be announced soon after the bowl game.

As for the process he’ll follow from here, Lock said “it’s definitely going to stem from my family (and) it’s going to stem on how the rest of these bowl games end up, how the (quarterback) class ends up shaping (up) … See how it all plays out.”

He didn’t say it would depend on who MU hires to replace offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, but obviously that will be a major factor in Lock’s thinking as he tries to sort out how much better he could get to help raise his stock for next year.

(UCLA interim head coach Jedd Fisch visited one of MU’s bowl practices in Columbia and is considered a leading candidate for the job. His NFL background and inclination to use a pro offense could be assets for Lock).

If this was Lock’s last college game, his career will have ended on a bittersweet note.

As Lock was throwing for 3,695 yards, MU had won six in a row coming into the bowl and seemed to have a distinct advantage over Texas — which had three key defensive players out for a variety of reasons.

But Lock said MU wasn’t lulled by that.

“When people talked about the guys being out, (I said) that they were going to have guys who come in and play just as good, if not maybe better, than the guys who were leaving,” he said. “You’re going to get five- and four-stars at every position at the University of Texas. So there was no drop in talent when those guys were gone, I’ll tell you that."

As for MU’s drop in performance, it was easy to pinpoint the reasons:

“When you win (the turnover margin) 4-0 like Texas did tonight, you could have been a team full of all walk-ons (and) you’re still going to win the game,” said Lock, who also acknowledged “a little difference in what’s going on on the field” with Heupel gone and Joe Jon Finley temporarily coordinating the offense.

It didn’t help that Texas punter Michael Dickson kept MU pinned deep in its own territory much of the game, so much so that Dickson was voted most valuable player.

“He definitely pinned us back and kind of took some of the possibility of taking deep shots away because you never want to drop into your own end zone,” Lock said. “... That guy, he was pretty special tonight.”

Still, Lock also figured a loss at the end of the season doesn’t obscure what MU did to pull itself out of a 1-5 start.

“I think being a man, being a grown-up, going about your business, you don’t let this one game tear it all down,” he said, later adding, “We’ve got a lot that we can look forward to, we’ve got a lot that we can take from this game and learn on.”

Whether he applies it at MU or in the NFL is another matter.

Vahe Gregorian is a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian

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