Missouri looks to improve play up front following loss to Wyoming

The Tigers were consistently outplayed by a smaller Wyoming team on both sides of the ball Saturday.

As Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant crossed the line of scrimmage in the second quarter on Saturday night, he had plenty of open space in front of him.

Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Case Cook blocked Wyoming defensive tackle Victor Jones, while redshirt junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam seemingly had safety Esaias Gandy sealed off.

As Bryant made his way up field though, the 193-pound Gandy — over 60 pounds lighter than Okwuegbunam — shed his block and lowered his shoulder into Bryant, jarring the ball loose.

Cowboys cornerback C.J. Coldon scooped the ball up and returned it 30 yards for Wyoming’s first touchdown of the game. The play was the first of several times in the evening when the smaller Wyoming team overcame its size disadvantage to win the battle in the trenches.

“They were really, really gap-sound,” redshirt junior Trystan Colon-Castillo said. “They moved a lot, and they play really, really hard.”

Missouri running backs rushed for a paltry 94 yards, held in check partly because of a swarming Wyoming defense matching up with a listless Tigers O-line.

“As an offensive line, you hate to say it, but we didn’t play hard enough,” Colon-Castillo said. “We had guys falling off late making tackles, missing assignments on the wrong people and that’s something we’re gonna take pride in this week. That’s something we’re gonna fix this Saturday.”

The problem of being outplayed at the line of scrimmage wasn’t exclusive to the offense. The Tiger defense struggled to stop Wyoming’s run game all night, lowlighted by touchdown runs of over 50 yards on consecutive possessions in the second quarter.

Missouri’s struggle with bringing down ball carriers was concerning to coach Barry Odom. So much so, that he took the unusual step of putting his defense through live tackling drills on Tuesday.

“I feel like you’ve got a good pulse on your team and what the team needs to [do] in fall camp in that regard at least, tackling,” Odom said. “And did we tackle as well as we wanted to? No, we didn’t. Hopefully we see a better effort in those areas in the second game.”

During preseason fall camp, the Tigers had fewer full contact practices and less tackling than usual. Senior linebacker Cale Garrett was blunt in his assessment of how much of an impact that held Saturday.

“You could make that excuse if you wanted to, but that’s not acceptable regardless of whatever the way we practice,” he said. “We’re expected to make tackles, so we need to be better.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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