Missouri loses form, struggles against No. 11 Florida

Freshman quarterback Drew Lock only converted on one third down in his 14 attempts.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel watches a play Oct. 10, 2015, at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.

Last week, Missouri thought it had solved its offensive struggles thanks to true freshman quarterback Drew Lock.

Saturday night, a 21-3 loss to No. 11 Florida, in front of a 70,767-person homecoming crowd, proved that was certainly not the case.

The offensive line struggled to protect the 18-year-old quarterback, as the stingy Florida defensive line dominated the inside all night. Despite recording just three sacks, the Gators forced five hurry-ups and knocked Lock down relentlessly.

Senior center Evan Boehm put the majority of the offensive struggles on his shoulders. As a captain, he said it was his job to protect his young quarterback. He failed to do that during Saturday’s homecoming game.

“We didn’t play the way we need to play,” Boehm said. “It’s all about confidence. It’s all about fundamentals and technique, and I don’t think we did a very good job of that tonight. We have to do something different. We have to find something within ourselves to come out here and do something bigger.”

Play after play, Lock would end up on the ground with a defensive player smashed on top.

Play after play, Boehm and his offensive linemen had to pick him back up.

“It’s awful.” Boehm said. “You never want to pick your quarterback up that many times in a game. You never want to pick your quarterback up period.”

Lock completed 16 passes in 39 attempts for 151 yards and two interceptions, one going back for a touchdown. After Florida scored a touchdown on its first drive, Lock drove Missouri down to the red zone with 19-yard and 32-yard completions. The Tigers would settle for a field goal, their only score of the night.

It was tough for Missouri to score any more points with the offense converting on just one of its 14 third downs. That was the worst conversion rate since falling to Georgia by a score of 34-0 at home last season. The Tigers didn’t convert any of their seven third-down attempts that game.

Six of Saturday’s third down attempts were 3rd-and-10 or more yards.

“When you get yourselves in a lot of long third down situations, it isn’t very good,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

Freshman defensive end Nate Howard’s late hit in the first quarter set the pace for a slew of penalties on both sides of the ball, which restricted Missouri from getting into rhythm.

But in the bigger picture, these setbacks weren’t all bad.

“I told (Howard), ‘Great job running to the ball,’” redshirt freshman defensive end Charles Harris said of the play. “That’s all I ask you to do: Run to the ball. He’s just gotta be smarter knowing when he can, when he can’t hit him. But we’re taught to hit the man ‘til he’s down twice. That’s pure hustle. You watch that play, he missed the tackle, got up, ran to the ball and still got there? That’s pure hustle. That’s pure heart.”

Within Memorial Stadium, in the media room and the locker room, the mood was expectedly somber. The Tigers had lost their first home loss of the year, on Homecoming, with no touchdowns scored.

But no matter the 21-3 scoreline, their 4-2 record and the daunting Georgia team that awaits them next week, the players’ heads refused to drop.

“We’re never in a losing locker room — ever,” junior linebacker Michael Scherer told a reporter post-game. “I don’t care what you say or what anybody says — this will not be a losing locker room ever. I don’t care what our record is. I don’t care what the score on the scoreboard is. Nobody in that room is a loser. Nobody looks at themselves as a loser and any time that Mizzou football exists, that will never be a losing locker room.”

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