Tiger Takeaways: Penalties, turnovers doomed Mizzou

September 26, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA, MO. • So much of the postgame coverage of Missouri’s 51-14 loss to Auburn centered on Barry Odom’s emotional postgame speech, but let’s take a closer look at some things that happened on the field before the rant, conference

• What’s happened to Missouri’s offensive line? Left tackle Tyler Howell was benched in favor of Yasir Durant, who promptly opened the game with two costly penalties. Left guard Kevin Pendleton came off the bench against Purdue and lasted just two snaps Saturday before he hobbled off, replaced by Adam Ploudre. The line has drawn six flags in four games for 35 yards in penalties, including five false starts.

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The line gave up two sacks Saturday, though one was the disputable incomplete pass non-call that was instead ruled a Drew Lock fumble. Fumble or incomplete, Lock still got crunched on the play. On Mizzou’s first five possessions, defensive end Jeff Holland hit Lock three times, two on incomplete passes and a third time on the sack. Holland got through right tackle Paul Adams two more times on his path to Lock late in the first half.

On the other hand, Missouri did have some measured success running the ball — not by MU’s standards but better than anyone else has done against Auburn to date. MU’s three running backs ran for 111 yards on 24 carries, good for 4.6 yards per carry. Not great, but against that defense, most coaches would live with that average. Overall, MU’s 4 yards per carry was the best anyone’s done against Auburn this year. Auburn’s six tackles for loss marked a season low for Kevin Steele’s defense.

• As for Missouri’s defensive line, where’s the pressure? On Auburn’s six first-half possessions, Jarrett Stidham completed nine of 11 passes for 147 yards. He was touched by a defender in the backfield just twice. On the first, a five-man rush engulfed the pocket and Jordan Harold knocked him down on an incomplete pass. On the second, Terry Beckner Jr. bull rushed through two blockers to hit Stidham just as he released a deep ball for an incomplete pass. Earlier in the half, Stidham completed deep passes for 58 and 46 yards, both times against three-man rushes with Mizzou dropping eight into coverage. On neither throw did MU breathe on Stidham, much less apply pressure.

For the game, Mizzou made just three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, a season-low. Since Odom took over as head coach, only Florida and LSU last season held the Tigers to fewer tackles for loss. The Tigers had just one sack and through four games have just nine. Mizzou is on pace for 27 sacks, same as last year. Of MU’s 27 tackles for loss, 12 came against Missouri State.

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• Playing with a busted nose, Lock fell to 7-17 as a starter and 3-14 in SEC games. By some measures, this was his best game of Mizzou’s three losses, which says more about how much the passing game struggled against South Carolina and Purdue. Against Auburn, Lock posted his best completion percentage (59.0) and passer rating (117.3) against FBS competition this season and for the first time against an FBS defense had more touchdowns (two) than interceptions (one), though he also lost two fumbles on sacks.

Among SEC quarterbacks, here’s where Lock ranks in the major passing categories:

Completion percentage, 52.6: 12th

Yards per attempt, 8.4: 4th

Touchdowns, 10: 2nd

Interceptions, 6: 1st

Passer rating, 138.8: 10th

Yards per game, 278.8: 2nd

For the second straight game, Lock threw an interception on a well thrown ball. The week before J’Mon Moore had a touchdown ripped out of his hand in the end zone. On Saturday, Lock threw a slant that went between Jason Reese’s hands and to a diving Auburn defensive back.

Say this much for Lock: Teammates can’t question his toughness. He played with a broken nose suffered four days earlier in practice and took some bone-rattling hits during the game. Safety Tray Matthews tattooed Lock on an option keeper into the middle of the defense and linebacker Richard McBryde later popped him on a quarterback draw. To his credit, Lock jumped up from the pile and was on his feet before McBryde.

“I’m glad he was able to fight through (the broken nose) and go out there and compete,” Moore said.

• Where was Moore? Moore was targeted just three times. That’s the fewest passes thrown his way in the 15 games of the Odom/Josh Heupel era. Moore is third on the team in targets but second in the SEC in receiving yards.

Here are MU’s updated receiver stats for the season: targets, catches, yards, touchdowns, interceptions on targets, drops, receiver rating, which is Lock’s rating when targeting each individual receiver:

Wide receivers

Moore: 23, 12, 312, 3, 2, 2, 191.8

Johnathon Johnson: 25, 18, 233, 2, 1, 2, 168.7

Dimetrios Mason: 25, 13, 119, 0, 0, 2, 92.0

Emanuel Hall: 9, 5, 104, 0, 0, 0, 152.6

Richaud Floyd: 10, 4, 49, 0, 1, 1, 61.2

Tight ends

Reese: 10, 4, 107, 2, 2, 3, 155.9

Albert Okwuegbunam: 6, 4, 77, 1, 0, 1, 229.5

Kendall Blanton: 4, 3, 48, 0, 0, 0, 175.8

• There were some offensive wrinkles in Saturday’s game plan. Heupel put the receivers and backs in motion more often. The Tigers also played at a more deliberate pace at times, sometimes letting the play clock tick off into the teens. Heupel added some screen passes to the running backs, including one that went for a 19-yard score to Damarea Crockett.

Lock’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Moore came out of a formation that Heupel used frequently at Oklahoma: a diamond backfield with Lock in the pistol, Ish Witter behind him and Blanton and Floyd split in front of Lock as blocking backs. After a play-fake to Witter, Blanton and Witter stayed home to block for Lock, Floyd ran an out pattern out of the backfield and Moore ran a combination route to the end zone, a post-corner.

Mizzou’s second TD came on variation of diamond formation pic.twitter.com/oiGNftBoHl — Eye On The Tigers (@EyeontheTigers) September 25, 2017

• Lastly, does the game unfold differently if Lock’s second quarter fumble is ruled an incomplete pass? Probably not, but had Mizzou punted and pinned Auburn deep and perhaps shown a pulse on defense, maybe Lock leads a scoring drive and makes it 21-7 instead of 28-0. By then Mizzou’s offense had started to have some success, albeit too late to make the game competitive, but the fumble-turned-touchdown seemed to tilt all the momentum in Auburn’s favor for good.

Somehow this was ruled a fumble, to the surprise of most people watching and everyone on the field pic.twitter.com/8Xdv1BLCkm — Eye On The Tigers (@EyeontheTigers) September 25, 2017

Here’s how Rule 2, Section 19 defines a forward pass:

“When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward toward the neutral zone, any intentional forward movement of his hand or arm with the ball firmly in his control starts the forward pass. If a Team B player contacts the passer or ball after forward movement begins and the ball leaves the passer’s hand, a forward pass is ruled regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player.”

It sure looked like Lock’s right arm was moving forward intentionally when Holland hit him from behind, but the replay booth might not have had enough evidence to overturn the original call of a fumble.