Never say it can’t get worse.
I’m a Royals fan. My favorite baseball team lost 100 games for the first time in franchise history when I was 10 years old. It went on to lose at least 100 games in three of the next four years.
In that fourth 100-loss season in a five-year stretch, manager Buddy Bell said a quote that will stick with me the rest of my life.
“I never say it can’t get worse.”
That quote was symbolic of that era of Royals baseball. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. And it stayed that way for close to a decade. An MLB team in complete disarray, with no clear direction and no light at the end of the tunnel.
That’s how it felt watching Missouri play Texas A&M on Saturday at Faurot Field. The Tigers have won three games on the season with two “winnable” games remaining on the schedule, at Vanderbilt and at home against South Carolina. Their last best chance of finding six wins on the schedule would come by way of beating Texas A&M at home.
Even eternal optimists knew all hope was shot less than five minutes into the game. The next 55 minutes of gameplay didn’t really determine the outcome of the game so much as the margin of victory for the Aggies.
Let’s start our takeaways there…
1) Missouri’s momentum has come to a screeching halt
Remember the excitement surrounding this program throughout the offseason? Yeah, that’s gone. It could re-emerge briefly this week if 5-star wide receiver Luther Burden commits to the Tigers. But that feeling will be fleeting as Missouri plays out the remainder of its schedule.
The reality is this: Mizzou is a bad football team.
You know it, I know it and everyone else knows it. This team isn’t good. It lost its two coin-flip games by one possession. It got demolished at home against a mediocre Tennessee team, and it was exposed once again against the Aggies.
There’s a strong case to be made that Eli Drinkwitz hiring Steve Wilks to run his defense was the worse personnel move in college football this year
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 16, 2021
An offseason full of talk about how the Tigers close the gap with the top programs in the conference has led to a season displaying how wide that gap continues to be.
2) Why does Mizzou start so slow?
Missouri looked completely overmatched from the jump against a team that beat Colorado by three points.
Texas A&M’s first three drives totaled 17 plays and gained a combined 195 yards. All three resulted in touchdowns. Missouri’s first three drives lasted all of 13 plays and gained a combined 33 yards. The Tigers totaled more penalty yards than rushing yards in the first quarter. They had more turnovers in the first quarter than first down conversions through the air.
By the end of the first quarter Texas A&M had outscored Missouri 21-0 and out-gained the Tigers 184-49.
Mizzou has been outscored 63-10 in the 1st quarter of SEC play this season.
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 16, 2021
Missouri has been outscored in the first quarter of its last two SEC games by a combined score of 49-3. It has racked up eight penalties for 73 yards, turned the ball over three times and has allowed 313 rushing yards in the first quarter in those two matchups.
You might have watched the rest of those games. But you didn’t need to. You already knew the result. The rest was purely superficial. It was about finding reasons for optimism for the Tigers and for the other team to run out the clock. The score didn’t much matter unless the Vegas spread came into question (spoiler alert: it didn’t).
Something is broken. This has the feel of a preseason scrimmage, not an SEC football game.
— Power Mizzou (@PowerMizzoucom) October 16, 2021
I don’t know what’s led to the Tigers’ slow starts. They looked completely lifeless to start the game at home against both Tennessee and Texas A&M. I don’t know if that’s coaching. I don’t know if it’s the pre-game routine prior to an early 11 am start. I have no idea. Any and all speculation is warranted after those two performances.
3) I’m running out of ways to describe Missouri’s defense
Texas A&M’s offense is not particularly good. You wouldn’t know that by watching the game on Saturday, but it’s true. According to Bill Connelly’s SP+, the Aggies have the 47th best offense in the country. For context, Missouri’s offense came into this week ranked 35th in SP+.
For the first half, Missouri made the Aggies’ offense look dominant. A&M put up 28 points, 280 total yards and averaged more than eight yards per play. Their seven first half drives resulted in four touchdowns, a field goal attempt, one punt and an interception. The only reason Missouri stayed in the game was because the Aggies, for whatever reason, kept throwing the football. Zach Calzada had some big plays through the air but he had zero touch on his passes and completed just eight of his 15 pass attempts in the first half.
The Aggies’ ground game was effective as ever, finishing the first half with 19 carries for more than 190 yards on the ground. They picked up nine first downs via the run.
Missouri came into this game ranked dead last in the country, 130th, in rushing yards allowed per game (288). The Tigers were 128th in rushing yards allowed per carry (6.1).
The worst run defense in the country somehow got worse after its rough performance against Texas A&M. The Tigers allowed 285 yards rushing on seven yards per carry.
There’s nothing interesting to discuss about the defense, so the only question remaining is which Missouri individual unit we’ll remember less fondly after 2021: The 2021 defense or the 2015 offense?
4) I’m ready to see Tyler Macon get some opportunities
I’ve said it a million times, but I want to make sure I give this disclaimer once again: Connor Bazelak isn’t Missouri’s biggest problem. He’s a perfectly fine college starting quarterback. He’s a game-manager and I don’t say that as a slight. If the Tigers had a good defense, they could do much worse than Bazelak as their starter.
But they don’t have a good defense. They have one of the worst defenses in the country. And Bazelak is starting to cost his team with far too many mistakes.
In Bazelak’s last three games against power five opponents (Boston College, Tennessee and Texas A&M), he has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions. He’s attempted 128 passes in those three games for 855 yards (6.7 yards per attempt). I’m sure Bazelak has earned the respect of his teammates and the coaching staff would like to see it through with him as the starting quarterback. I get it.
But it feels like it’s past time for Macon to get some opportunities. That doesn’t mean he has to take every rep. Maybe it’s a series per half. Maybe it’s just one series per game. Maybe it’s just opportunities once when the game gets completely out of hand as it has against both Tennessee and Texas A&M, and how it likely will in upcoming weeks against Georgia, Florida and Arkansas.
5) Let’s hand out some game balls
There wasn’t a whole lot worth getting excited about. The game wasn’t particularly interesting. But there were a few individual performers who deserve a shout out.
Tyler Badie was Missouri’s best offensive player, again. He finished with 68 hard fought yards on the ground and led the Tigers with seven receptions that gained 53 yards. He also had Mizzou’s most impressive touchdown of the game.
— Nathalie Jones (@NathalieABC17) October 16, 2021
Badie wasn’t alone. Tauskie Dove had one drive early in the third quarter in which he came down with multiple contested catches. Martez Manuel had an impressive sack on a great blitz. Jaylon Carlies came down with a well-earned interception. Dominic Lovett scored his first career touchdown.
Kudos to the guys who performed well. Time for a bye week. Back at it in two weeks against Vanderbilt in a game that will determine which team will finish sixth in the SEC East.