Notebook: Missouri defeats Missouri State despite poor defensive performance
When the 2016 season ended, it was hard to imagine the Missouri defense getting any worse.
The unit had regressed from one of college football’s top defenses to one of the worst. Coming into 2017, the Tigers were looking forward to having a clean slate.
But on Saturday, the Missouri defenders didn’t appear to have taken any steps forward. In fact, they may have taken a few back.
Missouri surrendered six touchdowns to Missouri State, five of which came during the first half. The Bears won only five games in the past two years, and they play in the FCS.
The majority of Missouri’s defensive woes came by way of the secondary. There were multiple instances of coverage breakdowns, including an 89-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-24 from Missouri State’s Malik Earl.
“Guys have got to get used to game speed,” defensive back Anthony Sherrils said. “Game speed is different than practice speed.”
Missouri’s run stoppers weren’t much better. Although the defensive line was able to record four sacks, it was also gashed for three touchdowns along the ground.
“All those fingers point directly at me,” coach Barry Odom said. “We didn’t play worth a darn in the first half. I thought we tackled poorly and our intensity wasn’t very good.”
The defense did show signs of improvement in the second half, as it clamped down and allowed just one more touchdown. Still, with 43 points on the board against it, the Missouri defense found few positives to take away from its first test of the season.
“I feel like, in the second half, we were flying to the ball,” Sherrils said. “We only gave up seven (eight) points, so I feel like we were doing a pretty good job on that end.”
Steckel performs well in return to Columbia
Missouri State coach Dave Steckel, who served on the Tigers’ coaching staff from 2001-14 (the final six seasons as the defensive coordinator), said earlier in the week that he had mixed emotions about his return to Memorial Stadium to face off against former colleagues and players. He looked forward to seeing familiar faces on the opposing sidelines but said it would be a business trip for his team.
After Saturday’s 29-point lost, in which his team seemed to have an answer for every Tigers score and trailed just 48-35 heading into halftime, the Bears coach joked about the way he was treated by his former school.
“I thought they were supposed to be nicer,” Steckel said. ... “They call it a homecoming.”
Steckel could begin his postgame news conference on a lighter note because his team showed him plenty to be happy about during the season opener. The Bears took the lead five times during the back-and-forth first half behind strong showings from quarterback Peyton Huslig (353 yards and two touchdowns in his debut) and running back Calan Crowder (124 yards and two touchdowns) and appeared to match and at times best the Tigers’ confidence and enthusiasm despite entering the game as underdogs from the Missouri Valley Conference.
The first thing on the coach’s mind after the game, though, was the L that will be placed on Missouri State’s schedule.
“I told them in the locker room I loved them; it’s not good enough, though,” Steckel said. “We’re proud of them, yeah. Am I happy for them? Yeah. But we’ve gotta win the football games, we’ve gotta go back and we have to learn from it, ... and then we’ll take it further.”
Crowder said Steckel referenced his past history with the Missouri program to help make the team feel more comfortable heading into Saturday’s game. Wide receiver Earl noted that Steckel’s decision to bring the Bears’ nontravel players to the game to provide sideline support made Faurot Field “feel like home.”
But they, too, shared in the coach’s frustration with the result. Earl said it’s indicative of the change in culture Steckel is pushing for.
“Like Coach Stec said, at the end of the day, this is still an L,” Earl said. “So there’s nothing to pat us on the back about, there’s nothing to be happy about.
“Yeah, we played an SEC team, but our goal is to win every game. That’s the culture we’re trying to change in this program,” Earl added. “Most of it is the mindset and the attitude of not just going out and hoping to win. Our motto is, ‘It’s Year 3; it’s time to expect it.’”
“We knew it meant a lot to him, and we wanted to get the win,” Crowder added. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it, but we wanted to show how much better we’ve gotten because of him.”
Logan to miss first six games because of ongoing NCAA review
After Saturday’s game, Odom announced that redshirt senior defensive lineman A.J. Logan will miss the Tigers’ first six games of the season because of his involvement in an ongoing NCAA investigation into academic misconduct.
Missouri Athletics released a statement on Logan’s behalf but could not comment any further on the situation to protect the investigation’s integrity.
“I want to let Tigers fans know that I will not be playing during our first six games this season,” Logan said in the statement. “Please accept this penalty as a consequence of my actions and that I have fully cooperated with both the university and the NCAA throughout the review process.
“I believe my integrity remains intact,” he added, “and I am now focused on working hard in the classroom ad on the field in the weeks ahead.”
Crockett runs wild
While Drew Lock torched Missouri State through the air, Damarea Crockett burned the Bears on the ground.
The running back showed no signs of a sophomore slump, running for 202 yards and two touchdowns. His performance gave him back-to-back 200 yard rushing games going back to last season’s performance against Tennessee.
“I just want to thank God and my offensive linemen,” Crockett said. “Just got to continue to work hard and take it to another level next week.”
He would have had a third touchdown, on a 73-yard run, but it the score was negated when his dive into the end zone was deemed excessive celebration.
“I was running looking at the big board, and I saw two guys behind me,” Crockett said. “One guy grabs my ankle, and I jump out of it, so I just know the second guy is coming. ... So I just dove. It was a stupid mistake.”
Saturday’s game showcased a lot of new faces in the black and gold.
Missouri introduced nine true freshmen to the field as well as several redshirt freshmen and junior college transfers. Notable performances came from transfer defensive tackle Rashad Brandon, who recorded five tackles and a sack; freshman running back Larry Rountree III, who rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown; and freshman safety Jordan Ulmer, who led the team with six tackles.
“I feel like they did a good job,” Sherrils said. “I feel like they held their own. We’re going to need them — we need that depth.”
MU’s 2007 team returns to Faurot
Perhaps it was fitting that Lock set Missouri’s single-game passing touchdown record on Saturday. He did so in front of a former Missouri team that was known for its high-flying offense.
Missouri’s 2007 team was honored for its performance 10 years ago. Chase Daniel — who quarterbacked that team and shared the previous record four times over for touchdown passes with five in a game (which Lock also accomplished twice previously) — did not make the trip, as his wife was giving birth.
Sean Weatherspoon, another key piece to the 2007 team, was also honored during the game for his induction into the Missouri Intercollegiate Hall of Fame.
Supervising editor is Pete Bland.