Tigers score first touchdown in 33 days in loss to Mississippi State

Russell Hansbrough’s 14-yard rushing TD snapped a streak of 47 straight drives without a score.
Missouri Tigers running back Tyler Hunt (35) runs with the football Nov. 6, 2015, during a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Faurot Field.

The drought lasted 33 days and ended with a pouring rainstorm at Faurot Field.

It took over three full games and 47 straight drives for the Tigers to break their touchdown dry spell, but in the relentless rain at Faurot Field on Thursday night, senior running back Russell Hansbrough broke free for a 14-yard score for the ages — or at least for the one night.

The mean tweets, the constant criticism, the self-doubt — it was all over.

With 1:56 on the clock in the second quarter, senior center Evan Boehm snapped the ball to Drew Lock from the 14-yard line. The freshman quarterback handed it off to Hansbrough, who made a cut left through a gaping hole. He sprinted past the 10 — is this it? — slipped past a pair of defenders at the five — dear Lord, this isn’t happening — and dove over the goal line — it’s an act of God — breaking the plane for the first Missouri touchdown in 799 hours.

“That was a weight lifted off our shoulders,” running back Tyler Hunt said. “Seeing Russ dive in there, it was like, ‘Sweet. Finally got one. Now let’s get this thing rolling.’”

Missouri’s first touchdown since Oct. 3 would turn out to be meaningless. The Tigers lost their fourth straight contest to No. 20 Mississippi State 31-13 Thursday night in a rainy, windy wet mess that further propelled Missouri down the Southeastern Conference standings.

After the lone touchdown, things did not get rolling.

The historically bad offense, which was the first Tiger team to fail to put the ball in the end zone in three consecutive games since a 1937 team led by Don Faurot, has struggled under Lock. The true freshman got his first start against South Carolina on Oct. 3, leading Missouri to a 24-10 victory, but he has since been unable to produce any kind of offensive efficiency.

Thursday’s loss, while disappointing for a Missouri team that is now sub-.500 for the first time since its inaugural SEC season in 2012, did produce a silver lining of six points and the boom of the Faurot Field cannon.

Every Saturday, the tension of the touchdown-less Tigers grew. First, Florida and its incredibly athletic secondary shut Lock and his wide receiver corps down.

A week later, Missouri trekked to Athens, Georgia. Within seconds of kickoff, Lock and his offense found themselves on the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line after Ian Simon intercepted the ball on the first play from scrimmage. The Tigers would fail to convert on three straight plays, settling for a field goal and never returning that close to the pylon for the remainder of the night.

Then there was Vanderbilt. A dreary Nashville afternoon played host to an even drearier offensive showing, with just 13 points between both teams and a third consecutive weekend without a Missouri touchdown.

So the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad offense entered Thursday’s game with a chip on its shoulder. The offensive line had been pushed around for a month. Lock missed open passes. The running backs couldn’t seem to find any holes.

It was no secret in the Missouri locker room. The offense wasn’t producing.

“Yeah, we all knew about that (scoreless streak),” Hunt said. “That’s one thing a lot of people have been telling us and we definitely have been on ourselves hard. We needed to score. We needed some touchdowns.”

Hunt had seven touches for 120 yards against MSU, leading the team in both rushing (85 yards) and receiving (35 yards).

It wasn’t the true freshman quarterback who dug his team out of the scoring hold. The scoring drought can be credited to the sideways torrential downpour that forced Missouri to run the ball nearly twice as much as it took to the air. The 45 rushing attempts were the most by Missouri this season, edging out the 42 rushes against South Carolina.

Running back Ish Witter, who rushed for 81 yards on 12 attempts, took away a few positives from Thursday’s loss. The run-game squad recorded a season-high 215 yards on the ground, including a touchdown.

“It was real good,” Witter said of his fellow running backs’ performance. “It showed that we can run the ball.”

Despite a lack of execution in the red zone, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was optimistic about his offense’s performance — regardless of the fact that they’ve scored just 25 points in the past four games.

Pinkel, for weeks now, has said it’s a process. Thursday was no different.

“I thought we improved in some ways,” Pinkel said. “Every week is learning.”

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments

0 comments

This item does not have any approved comments yet.

Post a comment

Please provide a full name for all comments. We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech.