Missouri freshens up in much-needed bye week
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — As Missouri coach Barry Odom stepped to the podium following his team’s last matchup, a 43-29 loss to No. 2 Georgia, he looked hurt and tired.
The Tigers stumbled and clawed back into the game a handful of times. So was Odom frustrated or encouraged by the team’s performance?
“Yes and yes,” Odom said. “You’re that close. Turn of events on not playing a clean football game and maybe would have had a chance there late in the fourth to win it.”
Missouri (3-1, 0-1 SEC) committed three turnovers and had a punt blocked that resulted in a touchdown. Combine those mistakes with players being banged up and the Tigers needed some time off.
Fortunately for Missouri, this past week was exactly that.
“It’s a really good week to heal up, get in the film room and take whatever we can from this game, the positives and the negatives,” tight end Albert Okwuegbunam said. “Kind of dissect it a little bit and get better moving forward.”
The Tigers had a lot to dissect.
Okwuegbunam fumbled on Missouri’s first drive, a turnover that was run back for a Georgia touchdown. Wide receiver Jonathon Johnson tipped a throw right into the arms of Bulldogs linebacker Tae Crowder, who ran the ball to the Missouri 7. Add on the aforementioned punt block, a missed field goal and another fumble, and the Tigers buried themselves.
“There’s not many teams in the country that I know can be in the turnover margin on the negative side and end up winning the external scoreboard,” Odom said.
On the injury front, Odom classified Johnson and fellow wide receivers Nate Brown and Emanuel Hall as “not full speed” against Georgia. The bye week gave them time to recover, and Odom said Tuesday that he expects them all to be ready to play on Saturday at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks (2-2, 1-2) represent another challenge in the middle of a three-game stretch in which the Tigers face the top two teams in the country. Yes, top-ranked Alabama is the following week.
The road ahead is daunting, but if the bye acted as a reset button, the Tigers should be confident against the Gamecocks. Both teams have played Georgia at home this season, and while Missouri largely beat itself and lost by 12, South Carolina was thoroughly outplayed and lost by 24.
Missouri’s losses have snowballed into five-game losing streaks in 2016 and ’17, but minutes after Odom’s postgame comments a week ago, players spoke with their heads held high and a hint of optimism.
It was a sign of maturity.
“People are upset. We’ve been there before. We’ve fought back from worse,” quarterback Drew Lock said. “1-5 is a lot worse than 3-1 right now. I think it’s just disappointing.”
This story has been corrected to show that Missouri had a five-game losing streak in 2017, not 2007.