Mizzou defense struggles with Odom at helm, Tigers lose 35-21
Mizzou allowed over 500 yards of total offense for the fourth straight game.
Oct. 29, 2016
One year ago, Barry Odom was at the helm of the nation’s sixth-ranked defense. His Tigers embodied everything Missouri fans had come to expect of the Mizzou defense: hard-hitting defensive lineman backed by physical defensive backs.
On Saturday, Odom retook the controls of a Mizzou defense that is a shell of what it once was. Despite his proven track record, Odom could not steer his defensive unit away from another thrashing, this time by the Kentucky Wildcats, 35-21.
Before the season, Odom handed the reins to newly appointed defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross. Cross emphasized gap integrity instead of the all-out attack past Mizzou defenses have used.
After seven games, Cross’ gap integrity was nonexistent. Odom decided enough was enough and took over play-calling duties for the Tiger defense.
“Going into last week, we talked about me wanting to be more involved,” Odom said. “I ended up calling it today … I’m going to kind of continue in that role.”
Despite the change, Missouri still suffered from the Kentucky attack. The Tigers surrendered 582 total yards of offense, 386 of which came on the ground. Gap integrity remained an issue.
“I thought I had a plan and they were still successful in how they were doing it,” Odom said. “... Eddie Granz, their coordinator, does a really good job. I knew him when he was at Cincinnati and I was at Memphis, and he’s always been really creative in creating mismatches.”
Odom’s defense was without two of its top playmakers in Michael Scherer and Terry Beckner, Jr. Their absence was exploited by the Wildcats, who made a living off of runs up the middle.
“The defense has got to keep running,” defensive end Charles Harris said. “The next man has got to be ready, all the way down to the third string, fourth string. We’ve just got to make sure the guys who are stepping up in those positions are ready to lead, ready to play.”
Part of the Wildcats’ success up the middle stemmed from Missouri’s poor tackling. Time after time, the Kentucky running backs were able to evade oncoming Tigers to create acres of space.
This wasn’t the first time Missouri fell victim to missed tackles this year. In fact, poor tackling has been the thorn in the defense’s side throughout the season.
“That’s maybe the single most frustrating thing right now,” Odom said. “We’re not very good tacklers and I’ve got to find a way to get that fixed.”
As a result, Kentucky put two running backs over the 180-yard mark. It is only the second time a Southeastern Conference program has had two rushers reach that mark in the last decade.
This is not the same defense Odom coached a year ago. It is a far cry from any defense Mizzou has fielded since joining the SEC.
“They’re hurt,” Odom said. “But also know that we’ve been through a lot together. We know that we’re going to stay the course and do what we can to be better.”
Edited by Nancy Coleman | firstname.lastname@example.org