Week eight report card: Offense lacking in a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky

Cale Garrett was a bright spot with three fourth-down stops, but the MU offense failed to tally a first down after halftime.
Missouri linebacker looks to his right after Kentucky fumbles the ball in the middle of the second quarter of an eventual 15-14 loss for Missouri on Saturday, Oct. 27. Garrett finished the game with 14 tackles.

The script seemed flipped for Missouri’s (4-4, 0-4 SEC) main units in Saturday’s 15-14 loss to Kentucky (7-1, 5-1 SEC).

The Tiger defense, although giving up a game-winning touchdown on the final drive, played consistent football throughout ,and the offense – although not playing poorly – didn’t contribute much to what looked to be Barry Odom’s first win over a ranked opponent. Just before the clock hit zero, anyway.

Quarterback: C+

Drew Lock: 15/27, 165 yards, 0 touchdowns - 0 interceptions, 106.9 rating

Lock’s day looked pretty insignificant on paper, but even with the lackluster performance, he still made his presence felt at a certain point, specifically the second quarter, where a 23-yard pass to Johnathon Johnson took the Tigers from their own 49 to the Kentucky 28 and set up an eventual one-yard touchdown rush from Larry Rountree III. That score was crucial if only for a little while, as it put Missouri up 11 points at the time and gave it some wiggle room as the score slipped to 14-9 toward the middle of the fourth quarter.

Aside from that, the senior quarterback’s impact felt unimpressive, both in a positive and negative light. He certainly didn’t throw the game away – he finished with no turnovers – however, he didn’t throw for a single touchdown.

The most crucial impact was in what he didn’t do, most notably an incomplete pass to Johnson on a late third-and-2, which led to a Corey Fatony punt and eventual game-winning touchdown from the Kentucky offense. Three of his 12 incompletions on the day also came on third down.

Running backs: C-

_Damarea Crockett: 11 attempts, 46 yards, 1 touchdowns

Larry Rountree: 14 attempts, 45 yards, 1 touchdown

The usual three-headed monster of Crockett, Rountree and Badie combined for just 84 yards and two scores against the Wildcats. That’s a stark difference from last week’s 215-yard, four-touchdown performance against Memphis. It also led to the team’s worst rushing performance since Alabama two weeks ago.

Missouri can’t depend on one facet of its offense to carry it to a win. Saturday felt like a mediocre attempt to do so with the rushing attack.

And while, yes, Missouri got its two scores from its most premier backs, it wasn’t enough for a win and it’s clear that the entire offense could’ve done more, including the running backs.

Receivers: C

Johnathon Johnson: 4 receptions, 71 yards, 0 touchdowns

Jalen Knox: 3 receptions, 12 yards, 0 touchdowns

Receivers normally only impact a football game as much as their quarterback lets them, but even Missouri’s most significant wideouts didn’t have the fullest effect on Saturday, largely due to the fact that Missouri didn’t score once through the air.

Another big part of that was that Johnson and Knox, Lock’s most targeted receivers, had seven of Lock’s 12 incompletions thrown their way. It also speaks volumes when a running back – Crockett – has fewer yards receiving than only two wideouts. What’s also worrisome is the fact that Missouri targeted just three different wide receivers against Kentucky.

The receiving corps wasn’t given a ton to work with from Lock, but as with most of the offense, it appears the unit left a lot on the field.

Tight Ends: C

Albert Okwuegbunam: 2 receptions, 20 yards, 0 touchdowns

The tight end group’s performance Saturday is pretty much the same – albeit, abbreviated – story as the receivers’ effort. Lock didn’t give all of his receivers a lot to work with, but considering that two tight ends caught just three passes and Okwuegbunam was targeted four times, there was definitely room for improvement.

Offensive Line: C+

Allowed 2 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 0 quarterback hurries

Normally a pretty stout group, the offensive line couldn’t hold the pass rush. More specifically, it couldn’t handle Josh Allen.

Allen tallied both of Kentucky’s sacks and half of its tackles for loss. So far this season, Missouri has allowed one sack and 14 tackles for loss in non-conference play, but when matching up against SEC opponents, those numbers inflate to 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

There’s not much to gripe about with this year’s O-line, but if one thing is clear, it should look to improve in the final stretch of SEC play.

Defensive Line: B-

Terry Beckner: 3 total tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss

Chris Turner: 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry

While the linebackers were the most dominant part of Missouri’s game against Kentucky – we’ll get to that – things were maintained by Missouri’s front seven as a whole for the most part.

The defensive line contributed five of the defense’s seven tackles for loss and two of its three sacks, including one from Tre Williams on the first play of the final drive. That pushed Kentucky deeper into its own territory, just before it flew down the field for the final score.

Linebackers: A

Cale Garrett: 14 tackles

Terez Hall: 7 tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss

Brandon Lee: 4 total tackles

If there was one group that stepped up Saturday, it was Missouri’s trio of starting linebackers. They accumulated more than a third of the defense’s tackles and the group was highlighted by the performance of Cale Garrett, who stepped three times on fourth down and twice on third down to stop Kentucky’s offense from driving.

Hall’s sack also came at moment of absolute necessity, as he pushed Kentucky seven yards out of the redzone.

Secondary: B-

Tyree Gillespie: 6 tackles

Adam Sparks: 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss

DeMarkus Acy: 0 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups

What’s both sad and crazy is that Missouri’s pass protection was on pace for a great performance heading into the second half, having given up 109 yards. However, it was also allowing 12.1 yards per reception.

Things sputtered especially quickly on the final drive. First, Kentucky passed from its own 12 and picked up 12, then 16, then 33. Not to mention the final two plays of the game, which resulted in a pass interference call on DeMarkus Acy and finally the game-winning touchdown.

B- feels very generous considering just how quickly things fell apart on the final drive for Missouri’s defense, but it’s hard to say the secondary wasn’t having one of its better games this year to that point.

Special Teams: D+

Tucker McCann: 0-for-1, blocked field goal

Corey Fatony: 9 punts, net 436 yards

With one blocked field goal and one punt return given up for a touchdown, it’s hard argue for a worse performance from any facet of this Missouri team. Granted, there’s one caveat: Corey Fatony had his best game of the season.

With four punts longer than 50 yards and five downed inside the 20, including two inside the 10, he really put on a punting clinic.

Putting that aside, the rest of the unit was lacking and while the blocked field goal may not linger as a significant turning point for this game, it would’ve made the final score 17-15 and given Missouri a win. Just as well, if Missouri doesn’t give up a punt return touchdown, the score after the game-winning drive sits at 14-9 and, once again, Missouri wins. It can’t be any simpler than that.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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