Three games in is way too soon to think about salvaging a season, but that’s the situation the Missouri football team finds itself in.
Going into last week’s game against South Carolina, I couldn’t tell with certainty, where the Tigers needed to play their best football, coming off their first win over FCS opponent Missouri State.
Clearly, defense was an area of concern, but the offense performed well and the defense played a little better in the second half of the season opener.
Last week’s game gave a clear picture of where the Tigers’ deficiencies lie. The defensive front is more stable than the secondary, but against a team like Purdue, the secondary is going to be targeted heavily.
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From the Tigers’ first two games there are a few things Missouri can do to savage its season, as the Tigers need at least five more wins to be bowl eligible.
Ground and pound
In their first game against Missouri State, the Tigers were very successful in both phases of their offense, on the ground and through the air.
Against South Carolina, the Tigers were again successful on the ground, when they put the ball in running back Damarea Crockett’s hands.
Once Crockett was sidelined by a bruised tailbone, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel abandoned the ground attack in trying to make use of Missouri’s passing attack, which on any other team, would stand to reason. However, such hasn’t been the case for the Tigers.
Prior to running back Nate Strong’s departure from the team two weeks ago, Missouri had depth at the running back position. Even with Strong’s departure, the Tigers still have depth at the position. Are the backups younger? Yes, but why not give them the opportunity to develop now?
Defend the pass
For Missouri, defending the pass is about as likely as the Tigers’ odds of beating Alabama on a good day. Not to say that it’s impossible, but it is improbable.
However, the Tigers must find a way to defend against the pass. While the Tigers are good enough to put pressure up front on the quarterback, defending the deep pass has been nothing short of problematic.
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Cornerback DeMarkus Acy has been one of the Tigers’ biggest weaknesses defending the pass. I want to say that he is able to play better, but he doesn’t even look good on paper.
Acy has the physical attributes, but has never performed to the team’s expectations of a D-I defensive back.
Maybe the answer to the Tigers’ woes in the secondary is sitting on the bench. If the veteran players aren’t able to cut it, then the coaching staff might as well find out where the team’s abilities stand elsewhere.
Whether it’s the deep bomb or short screen passes, quarterback Drew Lock has to improve his reads and make better decisions, areas where Lock said he had improved over the offseason.
Against Missouri State, Lock looked every bit the part that he stated he’d become. But against South Carolina, the junior quarterback looked every bit the part he was in 2016.
Lock is now an upperclassman. If he can’t perform any better than he did last year, then it’s time for Missouri to consider revamping his role, put the ball in the hands of the running backs, and make Lock a game manager.