With 13:07 to go in the second quarter of Saturday night’s contest against South Carolina, Missouri football lead 10-0 and Memorial Stadium was electric. 30 seconds later, stunned Tiger fans watched in horror as the Gamecocks tacked on the extra point to go up 14-10.
The Gamecocks never looked back, throttling the Tigers the rest of the way en route to a 31-13 victory. So how did it all go wrong for Missouri?
Mizzou’s woes began with poor special teams play. Sophomore placekicker Tucker McCann had done a solid job of kicking away from standout Gamecock kick returner Deebo Samuel on the previous two kickoffs, but his third try went right to the electric redshirt junior. Samuel made the Tigers pay, taking the kickoff 97 yards down the left sideline for the Gamecocks’ first touchdown of the day.
Head coach Barry Odom said his team’s lack of awareness on the play, and on special teams in general, was too much for Missouri to overcome.
“We didn’t do a good job on placing the ball; we didn’t do a good job on getting it across the formation in coverage,” Odom said. “That’s sloppy, that’s focus, that’s coaching, that’s details, that focus … it’s not very good. It cost us the game.”
Redshirt junior safety Kaleb Prewett, who was on the kick return defense team, said McCann’s kick put the kick return defense in an unfortunate situation, but that they still have to be able to adjust while the ball is in the air.
“When the kick’s shorter and it’s not in the right position, you have to get into your lane a lot quicker and get over and fill your gap, and we just weren’t ready for that,” Prewett said.
Another team could probably handle giving up a huge kick-return touchdown. Sure, some of the energy was zapped from the stadium, but with the offense headed back out on the field and Mizzou still leading, who could say the Tigers couldn’t regain the momentum? Drew Lock, that’s who.
On the first play immediately following Samuel’s kick return, Lock stared down his receiver along the Missouri sideline, giving South Carolina nickelback Jamyest Williams plenty of time to step in front of his man and pick up the interception.
Lock’s pick was nothing short of unacceptable, but it fit a trend of other ill-advised throws the junior has made in his career. He has consistently shown an inability to fool SEC defenses with his eyes, telegraphing far too many throws that have often led to interceptions. Tonight was no exception.
Following Lock’s interception, South Carolina ran a jet sweep around the left side of the line of scrimmage to Samuel for another touchdown, and the Tigers’ fate was sealed.
Prewett had a suggestion for how the Tigers can rebound when things don’t go their way going forward.
“We just gotta be some badasses, I guess,” Prewett said. “We’ve got to come out and play our hardest for all  minutes of the game.”
If Mizzou can heed Prewett’s advice for the the rest of the season, the team may end up being just fine and push itself out of irrelevance in the SEC East and back into championship conversations.
But if its answer to frustration is anything like the answer that came Saturday night, it’s going to be a long, miserable season in Columbia.
Edited by Eli Lederman | firstname.lastname@example.org