Grading the Missouri Tigers’ performance at Georgia

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 14: D'Andre Swift
ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 14: D'Andre Swift /

On Saturday night, the Missouri Tigers lost their fifth consecutive football game of the season; their most recent loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.

We haven’t graded the Tigers’ play since the season began, but today I was thinking, why not start, now? If anything, we can use this method as a way to compare Missouri’s performance from week-to-week, and gauge where the Tigers have improved.

Each week, Missouri has shown improvements, if slight in some areas, and have either declined or remained the same in others. There are any number of adjectives to describe where the Tigers stand at this point in their season, and who they are as a team.

Quarterback: B- (Last week: A)

Quarterback Drew Lock’s play has gradually improved, since the Tigers returned to the field from their bye week. Last week, against Kentucky, Lock handed in his best performance this season, against an FBS and power five opponent.

Missouri Tigers Football
Missouri Tigers Football /

Missouri Tigers Football

Saturday night, against Georgia, Lock started strong in the first half, where he tossed three touchdowns. By game’s end, he had completed 15-of-25 passes for 253 yards, and four touchdowns.

In the second half, Lock’s throws became more inconsistent, and he ended the game with an interception. Not that the Tigers would have had a chance at making a comeback at that point, but last week, he did not throw a single pick.

Running Backs: C (Last week: A-)

To be fair, Georgia presented the Tigers with a tough run defense. If Missouri was going to present an offensive challenge to the Bulldogs, they would have to make it happen through the air. However, the Tigers have been limited by most teams on the ground, this season.

Following an arm injury to Damarea Crockett, Mizzou went with a mix of Larry Rountree and Ish Witter. Crockett was severely limited on the day, but led the team in carries, with nine, and 32 rushing yards.

Running back Ish Witter contributed five carries for eight yards, while Rountree had six carries for 22 yards. We’ll see where Crockett is in the next few days. We may see more of Witter and Rountree, if he isn’t ready to go against Idaho.

Last week, the running backs didn’t have a touchdown, but Witter had an outstanding game against the Wildcats.

Tight Ends: A+ (Last week: N/A)

I don’t know if offensive coordinator Josh Heupel reads or listens to what others say, or if he doesn’t watch NFL games, but big tight ends, when utilized consistently, will make defenses pay.

It’s a rare day when a tight end is utilized in Missouri’s offense under Heupel. When a tight end has been dialed-up, he usually makes a positive play. Against Georgia, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam made two catches for 22 yards and a touchdown, while Jason Reese had a catch for 27 yards and a touchdown.

Missouri’s tight ends caught all three passes thrown their way, and scored on two of those possessions. I said it on Twitter last night, and I’ll put it here, as well: The tight ends are your quarterback’s friend, Heupel; use them.

Wide Receivers: B (Last week: A)

If Missouri’s receivers matched their play in the second half to their play in the first half, this grade again would have been a solid A, again. However, after a productive first half, the Tigers’ receivers looked sloppy in the fourth quarter.

Starting wideout J’Mon Moore had his least productive game, probably ever, with one catch for eight yards. After committing an unsportsmanlike penalty, Moore was pulled to the bench for a handful of plays, and then seemed to be in Barry Odom’s doghouse.

For the second week in a row, receiver Emanuel Hall led the receivers with four catches for 141 yards and the team’s remaining two touchdowns. I can’t imagine the coaching staff plans to bench Hall anytime soon, with his solid production.

Offensive Line: A- (Last week: A-)

The good: Missouri’s offensive line has been one of the more consistent units for the Tigers. Last week, against Kentucky, the o-line allowed one sack, and has also given Lock a decent amount of time to throw the ball to receivers.

The bad: The offensive line has not given consistent run protection to the Tigers’ running backs. Last week against Kentucky was the o-line’s best performance against an FBS and power five team.

For the most part, the offensive line has kept the quarterback out of trouble and harm’s way. However, it also hasn’t been without fault for some occasionally frustrating (read costly) penalties.

Defensive Line / Linebackers: D+ (last week: C)

Overall the defense has been Missouri’s Achilles heel.  The secondary has been mostly non-existent, but the defensive front has shown some life defending the run. Unfortunately, if the Tigers aren’t able to contain the rush at the line of scrimmage, the offense is able to make big plays, the way Georgia did.

The defense was able to put some pressure on the quarterback and had some success limiting Georgia’s running game, but in the second half, it all fell apart.

Defensive Secondary: F (Last week: F)

The defensive secondary has earned its grade. While the secondary didn’t fail completely – it forced a turnover and stopped the offense on a couple of key downs, its overall body of work was (and has been) a failure.

ATHENS, GA – OCTOBER 14: Sony Michel
ATHENS, GA – OCTOBER 14: Sony Michel /

If there is any point on this Tigers’ roster that is the weakest link, it’s Missouri’s defensive secondary. Overall, Missouri can compete with 3/4 of its roster, except the defensive secondary, where Mizzou gets burned.

I think the Tigers get burned in that facet of their game, due to a combination of inexperience, lack of discipline, poor coaching, and disorganized leadership.

If Missouri could shore-up this area of its game, the Tigers might have beaten Kentucky, Purdue and South Carolina. Theoretically, the Tigers could be sitting on a 4-2 record, right now.

Special Teams: D- (Last week: C-)

Missouri’s biggest issue on special teams, apart from kicker Tucker McCann’s inconsistencies, is long snapping. I don’t even pretend to believe for a minute that I could do a better job, but that’s because I’ve never long snapped a ball, before. But there are many long-snappers who can do their job effectively and with precision.

I have a huge problem when the snapper botches the snap to the punter, which created a short field for the Bulldogs to work with, after downing punter Corey Fatony deep in Missouri territory. Fortunately, the defense held Georgia to three points on the unfortunate drive.

Coaching: D- (Last week: C)

Last week was the coaching staff’s highest grade, since the Tigers’ season-opening win against Missouri State. Since that time, Mizzou’s coaches have pinballed between D and F.

Coming off the bye last week, I gave the coaching staff a C after putting guys in place to make plays, which included four touchdowns, a big day on the ground for the running game, and the defensive front creating pressure against an SEC opponent.

The coaching staff looked to regress in the second half, yesterday. During the first half, the offense and defense made plays to keep the other in the game, but it all fell apart by the middle of the third quarter.

Head coach Barry Odom is also calling defensive plays, which he’s been doing since midseason last year, but claimed he was stepping away from preseason this year, and then didn’t.

As a defensive coordinator, Odom did enough to keep the Tigers out of trouble, some of the time. However,  against Georgia, the defense, called by Odom, allowed the Bulldogs 696 total yards of offense and six touchdowns. Unacceptable.

Missouri heads into this week’s homecoming matchup against Idaho with a lot of questions to answer. If the Tigers manage a win over the Vandals on Saturday, then the remainder of season is still probably a loss, but if the coaching staff can find a way to make the Tigers competitive, then at least improved performance in losses will be better than what we saw in the weeks leading up to the bye.