Lock’s career ends with gaudy numbers, but leaves fans wondering what could’ve been

Lock ends his career near the top of all-time Missouri passing charts, but it also ended with a feeling that was all too familiar.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock celebrates an MU touchdown in the third quarter of MU's 33-38 loss to Oklahoma State on Monday, Dec. 31 at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

MEMPHIS, Tenn.- When Barry Odom was asked about Drew Lock’s legacy after the Tigers’ 33-38 loss to Oklahoma State Monday night, the quarterback turned and whispered into his coach’s ear.

“You don’t have to answer that, get on to the next question,” Lock said.

The moment was emblematic of Lock’s willingness to share the spotlight during a career where he has been the face of the Missouri program.

“Drew was the guy, but also he was another guy,” Odom said. “And that’s a pretty big statement if you step back and look through the lens of things he’s done over his career.”

But even if Lock is just another player on this Missouri team, he will forever be looked at as the key figure over Missouri’s last four years. Statistically, he is one of the best Missouri quarterbacks of all time and ranks second in school history in career passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Granted, Lock’s legacy is hard to judge. His individual success is undeniable, but it’s hard to identify how much his play correlates with his 21-25 record as Missouri’s starter.

Monday’s Liberty Bowl loss was like many of Lock’s games as a Tiger. The quarterback played well, with 373 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the game’s end result left a lot to be desired.

With the game hanging in the balance on a fourth-and-1, Missouri’s head coach had one option.

“I wouldn’t want the ball in anybody's hand except No. 3,” Odom said.

Lock kept the ball on a zone read but failed to get the corner and dove, reaching out his right arm, falling just short of the sticks.

Two kneel downs later, Oklahoma State finished off a 38-33 victory that ended Lock’s career with another close loss, clouding a successful season and a successful career for the man at the helm of the MU offense.

Lock nearly led Missouri all the way back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit against Oklahoma State. And while Missouri fell short yet again, the late surge showed this year’s team was unlike previous with Lock, where Missouri would lay down against winning teams, much like last season’s 51-14 loss to Auburn.

“If this team two years ago would’ve been put in this situation, I’d say there was no chance to come back and do what we did today,” Lock said. “Our growth overall as a football team and as football players is mind-boggling really.”

In Lock’s standout performance, he uncorked a deep ball that flew over 50 yards through the air to wideout Emanuel Hall for a 58-yard gain and threw a strike off his back foot that flew out of reach of a Cowboy defender and into the outstretched arms of tight end Kendall Blanton for a 16-yard touchdown.

The throws themselves show the on-field improvement for Lock, who has progressed every year at Missouri.

“He’s an NFL quarterback who has improved every year,” Blanton said. “I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”

They were throws that would make NFL scouts drool, but on two possessions late in the fourth-quarter, Lock and the offense were stopped twice in opponent territory, coming up with zero points after a blocked field goal with 9:22 left and the unsuccessful fourth down in the game’s final minutes.

As Lock’s career ends, fans will ask what the future first round pick’s legacy at Missouri is. They should know it’s a muddled one. Lock has climbed up the Missouri record books, but was also part of a program that has failed to reach the heights of Missouri’s past.

His final go-round ended as a small step forward from previous seasons with an 8-5 record, but it was filled with what-ifs and close losses that will put an asterisk on what was a successful season on paper.

At South Carolina, Lock threw a pick-6 on a screen pass in the rain that was one of many miscues in a third quarter that turned an 11-point halftime lead into a last-second defeat.

Three weeks later, Lock and the offense failed to get a first down in the second half of a game where Kentucky crawled back and escaped Faurot Field with a 15-14 victory on the game’s final play.

Those losses are what kept Missouri from a season with double-digit wins that would have finally made Lock and Missouri SEC East contenders.

Looking at the wins and losses, oddly enough, doesn’t show Lock’s complete impact on the program. Missouri is by and far in a much better position now than they were during Lock’s freshman campaign. After winning nine games over Lock’s freshman and sophomore seasons, he ended his career with two winning seasons and and a record of 15-11.

During Lock’s career, he became the face of a transition under Odom after struggling in his freshman season, putting up big numbers in the next two years, leading the country in touchdown passes his junior season.

However, the end results weren’t as spectacular as the stats. He finished with lackluster records of 4-8 and 7-6 over his next two years. Lock then decided to stay when he had the opportunity to bolt for the NFL Draft and forgo his senior season, giving Missouri a returning core of players who won its last six regular season games in 2017.

Lock’s impact on the program won’t end here, however. Next year Missouri looks to take another step. It returns most of its skill players and welcomes Kelly Bryant, one of the country’s top graduate transfer quarterbacks who could lead Missouri to more than eight wins next year.

The gaudy numbers Lock put up under former offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and current coordinator Derek Dooley helped Missouri get in the mix with Bryant and helped Missouri secure the transfer of former TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson, who will keep Missouri in a stable position at quarterback for the next two years after Bryant’s stop in Columbia.

Both of those quarterbacks could end up winning more games than Lock, but they will be welcomed with a drastically improved supporting cast based off Lock’s success and the foundation he’s helped build.

On whether Lock has lived up to the lofty expectations he was given as a four-star recruit, his coach wants to make one thing clear about the signal caller’s time in Columbia.

“He’s as Mizzou of a guy as you could be,” Odom said. “He’s changed Mizzou football in a lot of ways, all positive.”

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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