Missouri, with a huge 1st quarter, ends 5-game skid
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — In a team meeting Monday, Missouri coach Barry Odom set ablaze scouting reports, game plans and other remnants of a disappointing first half of the season. Five days later, the Tigers started the second half of the season by torching Idaho’s secondary.
Missouri ended a five-game losing streak with a 68-21 victory on Faurot Field.
“I think the display in the team meeting room Monday was perfect,” quarterback Drew Lock said. “I think we’re all buying into the whole second season. Starting off 1-0 is what we needed. I think we can keep building on that. We’ve got a lot of winnable games coming up, and we just need to believe in it.”
Lock completed 23 of 33 passes for 467 yards and six touchdowns. He fell one touchdown pass short of the school record he set in the season opener. J’Mon Moore caught 11 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown.
The game began ominously for the Tigers (2-5). Armond Hawkins intercepted Lock on the first play, and the Vandals (2-5) proceeded to score on a 7-yard pass from Matt Linehan to Kaden Elliss, a linebacker who moonlights on offense.
“There was a very pointed discussion between our offensive coordinator and him,” Odom said, referring to Josh Heupel and Lock. “It would not be G-rated.”
Lock, in his third year starting for a team that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2014, said he has developed thick skin.
“I’ve handled a lot of adversity since I’ve been here, so throwing a pick on the first play, I’ve been in a lot worse situations here,” Lock said.
Missouri responded with five first-quarter touchdowns, including three TD passes from Lock to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. By halftime, Missouri led 51-14 and had accumulated 465 yards.
Idaho entered the game ranked sixth nationally in pass defense, but it hadn’t played a Power 5 conference opponent until Saturday. The Tigers rely on run-pass option plays, and Lock chose the pass option frequently in the first half. The Vandals gave Missouri receivers big cushions — seemingly conceding short passes to prevent big plays — but Lock still connected on a 45-yard pass to Emanuel Hall and a 50-yarder Johnathan Johnson in the first quarter. Idaho was repeatedly gashed down the middle of the field by Missouri’s tight ends, including Kendall Blanton’s 62-yard reception.
Missouri was missing leading rusher Damarea Crockett, who injured his shoulder last week against Georgia and is expected to be out “for a while,” Odom said. In his place, freshman Larry Rountree rushed 12 times for 97 yards, including a 53-yard rush in which he plowed over Idaho defensive back Dorian Clark.
“I was just hitting the first person I saw in front of me,” Rountree said. “I’m not trying to be soft. I’m not afraid of contact.”
Missouri’s offensive output wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Tigers scored 72 points in their season-opening win over Missouri State and compiled a combined 62 points in losses at Kentucky and Georgia the last two weeks.
Missouri has been plagued by poor special teams, but the kicking game was a strength against Idaho. Richaud Floyd scored on an 85-yard punt return, and another TD was set up when Ronnell Perkins recovered a muffed kickoff in the first quarter.
Missouri entered Saturday ranked 122nd nationally in total defense after giving up an average of 499 yards per game. Idaho managed just 278 yards. Linehan completed 19 of 32 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Alfonso Onunwor caught eight passes for 89 yards, and Aaron Duckworth carried 13 times for 74 yards. Backup quarterback Mason Petrino got some playing time late in the game and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to David Ungerer with 48 seconds left.
“They just played way better than we did,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “Offensively, they got after us. Defensively, they won one-on-one matchups. You’ve just got to give them credit.”
A NOD TO THE PAST: It was homecoming at Missouri, and the Tigers honored their past by wearing throwback helmets with block M logos on the side, rather than the modern Tiger head logos. Also, Missouri opened the game lined up in the Split-T formation — invented by former coach Don Faurot in 1941 — before shifting into a spread formation.
MISSING KICKER: Missouri played without kicker Tucker McCann, but it didn’t miss him. McCann was suspended for a violation of team rules, and in his place, Nick Bartolotta made two field goals and converted 8 of 9 extra-point attempts. The 5-foot-6 Bartolotta also made a solo tackle on a kickoff. Odom said McCann will return to his starting role this week.
THE RETURN OF D-LINE ZOU: In the last decade, Missouri was so prolific at cranking out NFL defensive linemen that it adopted the nickname “D-Line Zou.” That line had been quiet in 2017 until it faced Idaho. The Tigers finished with five sacks. Defensive tackle Terry Beckner, a preseason All-SEC pick, had only two sacks in the first six games. He was far more active against the Vandals, posting two sacks and six tackles.
GOING BOTH WAYS: Ellis was one of the few bright spots for Vandals. In addition to his touchdown catch, he had three tackles for loss, including a sack.
MISSOURI: The Tigers will try to put together their first winning streak of the season when they visit Connecticut.
IDAHO: The Vandals will meet Louisiana-Monroe at home.