Missouri can’t find consistency, falls 21-14 against Vanderbilt

The loss was Missouri’s second of the season and on the road.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant walks off the field following another unsuccessful drive during Missouri's 21-14 loss against Vanderbilt. The Tigers are 0-2 on the road this season, and travel again next week. Photo by Madeline Carter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Late in the third quarter, Vanderbilt’s Mo Hasan exited the game after a hit by Tyree Gillespie — flagged as targeting, and rightfully confirmed as so — left the quarterback wobbly.

Riley Neal, who started the past six games for the Commodores, entered in Hasan’s place. The graduate student has thrown for 1,147 yards on 177 attempts this season.

On his first pass attempt on Saturday, he was intercepted by sophomore linebacker Cameron Wilkins.

“We just game planned for it and just workin’ it into action,” Wilkins said. “Really takeoff, just ‘saw ball, get ball.’ It was just an amazing feeling soon as I touched the ball to my hands.”

The turnover set Missouri up for a 6-yard touchdown run by Larry Rountree III on the following play, tying the game at 14 heading into the final quarter, and giving Missouri a flicker of hope.

That hope, like any other moments the Tigers saw potential on Saturday, was quickly extinguished.

No. 22 Missouri (5-2, 3-1) fell to Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3) 21-14 on the road in Nashville, most likely bumping them back out of ranked position this week.

The loss was a bit of a blindsiding one to coach Barry Odom.

“And that’s maybe even more frustrating because I felt like we had great practices,” Odom said. “I felt like we were ready to go. Pregame felt right. We obviously didn’t bring it. For winning football, a lot of areas we weren’t close.”

The Tigers struggled the entire game to find any sort of consistent offensive momentum. After a scoreless first quarter — its first since last season’s loss to Kentucky — Missouri allowed its opponent to score first for the third consecutive game. The Commodores got on the scoreboard with a 1-yard touchdown run by Ke’Shawn Vaughn early in the second quarter.

Missouri managed to respond to that score on its ensuing drive with a 4-yard Albert Okwuegbunam touchdown on a fade from Kelly Bryant. When the Commodores scored again near the end of the quarter to take a lead though, and the Tigers went into halftime trailing for the first time since Week 1.

Much of the game went on the same way, with Missouri seeing glimmers of a possible comeback and not being able to capitalize on them. Perhaps the most inconsistent part of Missouri’s play, however, came from senior Tucker McCann.

The senior missed three field goal attempts, nine points that could have made a difference in the outcome of the game. Last week, McCann made four field goals from similar distances.

Overall though, it was Missouri’s struggle to maintain momentum that led to its demise.

One such moment when this was particularly apparent came around five minutes into the third quarter. Missouri was given an extra chance by a roughing the kicker call following McCann’s second missed field goal, a 32-yarder that went far right, Bryant was intercepted in the back of the end zone by Vanderbilt redshirt sophomore Allan George.

“I felt like offensively — overall offensively — we weren’t very good,” Odom said. “And that’s all 11 guys. I thought the opportunity to connect on down the field throws, we weren’t there. We were off. Credit to them because they made us off and we weren’t good enough to overcome it.”

Vanderbilt didn’t manage to do much more of its own offensively either. Its game-winning touchdown by Cam Johnson ended a drive that was aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on defensive lineman Markell Utsey.

The Commodores possessed the ball for almost six more minutes throughout the game than the Tigers.

“Defensively, it felt like we were close, we just couldn’t get off the field,” Odom said.

While Missouri will return to Columbia during the week for practice, it heads to Lexington, Kentucky next weekend hoping to redeem a heartbreaking loss from last season against the Kentucky Wildcats and earn its first road win of the season.

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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