(Photo by Joe Ledford/The Kansas City Star)
The Missouri Tigers had this game last night against Mississippi State last night. It was 14-13 Bulldogs at the half, but something about the attitude of the Tigers’ sideline told me that they were going to win this game in front of 60,000 fans and an ESPN national audience last night.
Gary Pinkel couldn’t have asked for a worst start; the offense went three-and-out and the defense, who had been lights out these past few weeks, gave up a touchdown from Dak Prescott to a wide open Fred Ross.
Then the monsoon came, and the Tigers started playing with some real energy. A screen play to Tyler Hunt went for 35 yards down to the Bulldogs’ 8, but the drive stalled and Andrew Baggett got Missouri on the board with a field goal.
A couple drives later Kentrell Brothers blocked a punt, his third of the season, to set the Tigers up nicely again. Three straight runs for minimal yards set Baggett up again which made it 7-6.
A big kickoff return gave Mississippi State a really short field and Prescott found De’Runnya Wilson for a 28 yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead. Ball game right?
Missouri came storming back with a strong attack on the ground. Ish Witter and Russell Hansbrough bludgeoned the Bulldog defense for 68 yards on the drive, capped off by Hasnbrough’s 14 yard run into the end zone for the Tigers’ first in four games to close the gap 14-13.
Faruot Field erupted in the heavy rainfall. Fans were hugging and high-fiving each other like they had won the SEC, and the Tigers’ sideline was going crazy. All the momentum was on their side, they had this game, and they went into the locker room trailing the No. 20 team in the country by one.
Then the rain subsided and the second half began, and it was a whole different ballgame. Prescott had a big play to Wilson to the Tiger 15, after a penalty and a couple plays, Prescott hit Wilson again in the end zone.
It’s okay though, Missouri had the run game working so they were going to take it to the Bulldogs in the trenches.
Drew Lock, on the first play of the drive, looked like he was trying to throw it away but threw it directly to Kivon Coman for the interception. Lock has a lot of promise, but I had no clue what he was trying to accomplish with that throw.
The INT lead to field goal by the Bulldogs to extend the lead to 11, though Charles Harris appeared to force a fumble, but it wasn’t reviewed.
After a punt by the Tigers, the wheels started to come off. Prescott masterfully drove the offense 81 yards, capped off by a beautiful toss to Fred Ross to seal the game 31-13.
This was still a game, if the Tigers wanted it to be. Pinkel elected not to go for it on 4th-and-inches on the Tigers’ 18, despite Hansbrough proving to be effective. He could have gotten that half yard, but it appeared Pinkel didn’t want to lose by more than they were losing, so he chose to punt.
But the most egregious coaching error came with 10 minutes left in the game when the Tigers were driving. Lock found Emanuel Hall three times on that drive and got all the way to the Bulldog 22 and a 4th-and-five.
For some reason Josh Henson thought it would be a good idea to run a speed option play with Lock to pick up the first down. Well it didn’t work, and it didn’t work when he called that play a couple weeks ago against Georgia. Lock lost a yard, the boos rained down on the coaching staff and fans headed for the exits.
Those who stuck around saw Hunt break off a 72 yard run, the longest play of the season. Hunt owns Missouri’s biggest, most explosive plays of the season yet remains relatively absent from the gameplan. After failing to capitalize, Mississippi State ran out the clock for the win.
Missouri played their best half of football all year, and their worst half as well. They had all the momentum in the world going into the second half, and some terrible decisions turned a fun, wet, electric atmosphere into a cold, miserable, angry one. The Tigers dropped to 4-5 on the year.
They have a mini-bye week as they’re off until next Saturday when they take on BYU. Getting to six wins and a bowl game seems very unlikely at this point. I would say it’s time for the younger guys who aren’t playing some touches, but I’ve said that for the past three games and nothing has happened.
Coach ’em up Gary! Make the most out of these final three games, and build for next year.