The Missouri Tigers, favored by six against Kentucky, played their best game of the season on defense, while the offense almost did enough to stay afloat.
I have seen a number of games end in ways that left me baffled. I have felt shock, anger, and have been left bewildered, in the past. By far, Missouri’s ill-fated collapse to Kentucky ranks among my top-five worst experiences.
Going into this game, I was absolutely skeptical with the Tigers being six-point favorites over No. 12 Kentucky. It’s been quite some time since Mizzou was favored over a ranked opponent – I doubt seriously that has ever happened under Barry Odom’s tenure as head coach.
I was highly interested in seeing Missouri prove themselves against Kentucky. Last year’s game ended in a fashion that left me enraged with ignorant officiating, which still frequently reigns true in the outcome of close games for Mizzou.
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Not to say “this year is different,” but this year – coming into the season – was different. There were players bringing another year of experience to the field, and are more familiar with Odom’s system.
The game started slow, which I half expected. Kentucky set the lone score in the first quarter with a field goal. In the second quarter, the Tigers responded with two touchdowns, one from running back Damarea Crockett, and another to close out the half by running back Larry Rountree.
The defense played well, limiting the Wildcats to three points in the first half. The Kentucky offense, which boasted running back Benny Snell, were stymied by the Tigers’ defense. Snell was limited to 67 yards.
In the third quarter, the Tigers allowed Kentucky to return a punt for a touchdown. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, and Mizzou maintained its lead late into the fourth quarter.
The offensive play calling became super suspect in the second half, when whoever calls the offensive plays, opted to pass the ball on third-and-two, instead of using any of Missouri’s three very capable running backs. Furthermore, the offense failed to convert a single first down in the second half.
The defensive secondary, while still suspect in this game, allowed the Wildcats 297 passing yards. However, the secondary also contributed a key interception in the fourth quarter, when junior cornerback DeMarkus Acy recorded his first career interception.
Once again, officiating played a factor in the game’s outcome, because once again, among “winning” the penalty game (eight for 69 yards), the Tigers played “not to lose” in the second half, which allowed Kentucky to hang around and steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
On what many believed to be the final play of the game, Kentucky wide out Ahmed Wagner, who was covered by Acy, caught a pass just out of bounds. Game over – but not until an official threw a flag for defensive pass interference.
The arguably incorrect penalty allowed the Wildcats to set up shop on the Tigers’ three-yard line for a free play with no time left on the clock, which Kentucky passed to receiver CJ Conrad for the game-winning score.
Once again, Missouri will finish its third (full) season under Odom without a win over a ranked opponent. Many Tigers fans are calling for the embattled coach to be fired. I find it more difficult, with each inexplicable loss, to defend against it.
Many believed if Odom could lead his team to its first win over a ranked opponent, and then win-out the rest of the season, this could have been his signature win. But even Odom couldn’t explain away this loss.
So, the Missouri Tigers sit at an even 4-4, with fluff wins over the likes of UT Martin and Wyoming. The Tigers’ toughest win to date came on the road at Purdue. The remainder of the schedule could go wither way for Missouri. How does Odom trump last year’s playbook blaze to inspire his team?