The Missouri Tigers started their 2017 season with a win over Missouri State. While the offense looked unstoppable, the defense left much to be desired.
Right now, my feeling is, “Great. The Tigers beat Missouri State, and started off their season with a win, albeit a hard-fought victory.” But Missouri’s shortcomings on defense are glaring.
The offense was brilliant at times, but rarely missed a cue, in the Tigers’ 72-43 win. Running back Damarea Crockett covered over 200 yards on the ground, and the connection between quarterback Drew Lock and the receivers was solid, to say the least.
Lock had a couple miscues which resulted in turnovers, but it was never costly for the Tigers, whose offensive game was absolutely ridiculous.
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On offense, my first take is the Tigers are fine. Lock cleaned his passing game up from last year, and wide receiver J’Mon Moore is showing promise in his pass-catching ability from last year, as well.
On the ground, running back Damarea Crockett is a beast, as expected. The most unfortunate points of Crockett’s day was a touchdown recalled for an unsportsmanlike penalty, when he dove into the endzone – a tacky penalty, at best. Yes, tt was one of the upgraded rules over the offseason, but I still don’t like it.
Crockett’s other misfortune was a fumble – again, considering the Tigers were ahead of the Bears by two possessions, it wasn’t a costly mistake, but it is an area he will continue improving upon, as it could prove costly in SEC play.
Missouri’s tight ends and offensive line also had a strong showing on the day, as it did not allow a sack on Lock, who tossed seven touchdowns, breaking the school record he broke last year against Delaware State.
Lock also surpassed 400 passing yards against the Bears. The bottom line is, the offense had a great showing against Missouri State. The Tigers need to clean up a few things offensively, but otherwise, they looked solid.
Defense was Missouri’s Achilles heel against the Bears. Not that Missouri State showed any defensive prowess, but the Tigers looked atrocious on defense against a non-conference opponent.
If Missouri State’s execution on defense was as strong as its execution on offense was, then I wouldn’t doubt that Mizzou would be sitting on a season opening loss.
It’s no secret that Missouri’s defense was the unknown going into this game, and the Tigers have one week to shore that area up as they prepare to host their first conference opponent, South Carolina.
I don’t like to dog any aspect of the team, because I know these kids work hard, but the mistakes and lack of awareness speak more to the defense’s level of maturity and experience, than talent.
Cornerbacks Logan Cheadle and Anthony Sherills, and defensive lineman Rashad Brandon offered the unit’s glimpses of potential throughout the game, with solid tackling, a sack, an interception ,and a broken pass attempt.
Certainly, there is untapped potential on Missouri’s defense; it’s a matter of continuing to draw it out and learn from what amounts to rookie mistakes. The Tigers’ defense will not be top 10 this year, no matter how much I will it to be, but the coaching staff must decide how to utilize the defense’s strengths, in order to mask its weaknesses.
Unlike the NFL, the personnel on Missouri’s roster is what the Tigers have to work with. There is no signing of free agents, so it’s up to the coaches to call plays that work to Mizzou’s strengths, and make sound decisions for the defense.
Next up for Missouri are the South Carolina Gamecocks, which is scheduled or a 7:00 PM (EST) kickoff. We know Missouri’s offense is up for the challenge; hopefully, the defense will have enough time to make the adjustments it needs.