Missouri’s offensive woes continue despite Bryant’s return

The Tigers have failed to find the endzone in nine straight quarters.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant scrambles under the pressure of three oncoming Florida defensive linemen during Missouri's 23-6 loss to the Gators. Photo by Andrew Moore

After Saturday afternoon’s loss at home to No. 11 Florida, Missouri coach Barry Odom said his team “wasn’t functioning at all offensively.”

He’s right. Missouri hasn’t been able to find the end zone in nine consecutive quarters of football. And if an offense isn’t scoring touchdowns, it isn’t serving its purpose.

There’s no obvious answer — at least to the players — of why things have gone so downhill since Missouri’s last win on Oct. 12 against Ole Miss.

“There’s progress and the potential is there,” redshirt sophomore wideout Barrett Banister said. “It’s not like we’re running out there with guys who can’t compete. For whatever reason, we’re in a slump right now. We’ve been doing all the right things and we got to figure out how to get this thing clicking and rolling again.

In his first game back at QB since injuring his hamstring on Oct. 26, Kelly Bryant had no wingman. Despite extending a number of plays on the scramble and targeting receivers downfield, Bryant’s receiving core couldn’t bring in more than 25 of his 39 pass attempts. The quarterback finished with 204 passing yards along with 19 on the ground.

“I don’t think anything’s changed,” Bryant said of the offense’s woes. “The playbook hasn’t changed. We’ve just hit a little bump in the road right now. Just a little adversity. We’ve just gotta find a way to get back on track. Easier said than done.”

The Tigers have just 14 receiving touchdowns this season compared to 32 on the ground. Missouri’s last passing touchdown — and its last in general — wasn’t even to a receiver. It was a screen pass to sophomore running back Tyler Badie that turned into a 74-yard score just before Bryant left the Kentucky game.

And before that? It was a 4-yard fade pass to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the second quarter of the Vanderbilt game.

“As far as what’s been happening, it’s hard to say,” Okwuegbunam said. “Like I said, it’s not just one single thing.”

Missouri’s biggest offensive play on Saturday was a 44-yard deep ball from Bryant to sophomore Jalen Knox to move the Tigers into Gator territory early in the second quarter. It was immediately followed by a Dawson Downing rush for a loss of seven yards, and three plays later, a 37-yard field goal by Tucker McCann to put the Tigers on the board.

Otherwise, Missouri’s pass game was lackluster, with the second longest pass — and one of only a handful over 10 yards — a 24-yard completion from Bryant to Jonathan Nance that preceded the long ball to Knox.

“We had both of those — the cross route to Nance and then the post or whatever to Jalen — after we had both of those plays I was kind of like, ‘Okay, here we go, we’re in a groove, we’re gonna get rolling,’” offensive lineman Trystan Colon-Castillo said.

But the offense didn’t get rolling. It never found a groove.

The ground game did nothing to create momentum for Missouri’s offense either. Larry Rountree III’s 30 yards on seven carries led the team with Bryant as the second leading rusher averaging just 1.3 yards per carry.

“I’ve talked for a long time, not just this year, about how important it is to run the ball,” Odom said. “You’ve got to be able to run it because if you don’t, you put so much pressure on completing it. Those teams that win, and win late — they have the ability to run.”

While Odom was hesitant to place blame on his team as a whole, let alone any players individually, for the offense’s recent string of poor performances, the players didn’t feel the same.

“This is on us,” Bryant said. “It’s not on the coaches at this point. Players play, make the plays and coaches coach. We just gotta find our groove back and our identity.”

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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