Missouri Football: The 2018 season is not lost for Mizzou

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Drew Lock
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Drew Lock /

Two losses can’t define a team’s season, and the Missouri Tigers’ 2018 season should not be defined by two losses, either.

I’ve been a little down on Mizzou the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure why, but I think like many of you, I also had higher expectations than I realized. Somewhere between “eternal optimist” and “Debbie-downer,” you will find my spirit for this year’s Tigers team.

First, let’s spend a little time on losses. So far, the Tigers have lost two games – we’re well aware. Within those two games, what has caused Mizzou to meltdown?

Against Georgia and South Carolina, the Tigers’ defensive secondary was obliterated. While the score was much closer at South Carolina, the secondary allowed the Gamecocks to put 37 points on the board. If the Tigers have an “Achilles heel” this year, it’s the defensive secondary.

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Penalties have also been a major deciding factor in Missouri’s losses. Against South Carolina, the Tigers went from scoring a touchdown, to being penalized for more than 30 yards on a single offensive drive.

On the season, the Tigers have been penalized 14 times. Penalties happen, but when the bulk of those penalties come in only a couple of games, they can cost the team opportunities to score points.

Missouri missed four red zone opportunities to score touchdowns, and settled for field goals at South Carolina.

For all of the offensive firepower Missouri possesses, it means nothing when the Tigers shoot themselves in the foot with costly, momentum-swinging penalties. Coming into the 2018 season, Missouri was the second-most penalized team in the SEC over the past five years – totally unacceptable.

Then, there’s another interesting conclusion: The game officials aren’t “out to get Missouri.” Yes, it feels like most of the time, the SEC and its officials are out to get Mizzou any way they can; I’ve fallen victim to the blame game, as well. However, the most penalized team in the last five years is Florida, and the third-most is LSU – teams “dyed-in-the-wool, SEC.”

The Tigers have the talent on the defensive front and on offense to win games, despite the defensive secondary’s shortcomings. However, the team overall has worked very hard to show it lacks discipline, too.

If the Tigers are going to continue down this path without a real goal in mind, then we will continue to see senseless mistakes, costly penalties, and lack of responsibility. It’s nice to see head coach Barry Odom, or quarterback Drew Lock shoulder the blame when the team comes up short, but more players need to shoulder responsibility, as well.

The season is not lost on Missouri, however. And for that, we can all be grateful. The Tigers have a fairly favorable schedule after what “should be” a loss to Alabama.

Missouri has a strong run game with backs Damarea Crockett, Larry Rountree, and Tyler Badie. Once Mizzou gets a healthy Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown back on the field, Drew Lock will have his deep pass threat again, which will help the Tigers immensely.

On defense, the Tigers will have to continue playing to their strength, and using the “bend but don’t break” style of defense, to mask the floundering defensive secondary. Missouri has shown its ability to get after the quarterback, and stuff the run, which, so far, has only carried Mizzou through three quarters of football.

At this point, Missouri should find itself in a bowl game scenario. However, in its current format, the Tigers look to win at least three more games, which would put them at 6-6, which means the Tigers need a fourth win.

Counting Saturday’s game at Alabama as a loss, means Missouri will have to find those four wins among the stretch of Memphis, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Kentucky only has one loss, and Arkansas put up 31 points on Alabama.

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Florida seems to be a team on the rise, which would leave Missouri setting its sights to beat Memphis, Vandy, and Tennessee, and then take a shot at one of the three remaining teams on the schedule. The Tigers are talented enough to get there, but will they be disciplined enough to win?