Columbia Missourian, Missouri Football

Tigers sunk by the Commodores

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Drew Lock’s pass to Russell Hansbrough wasn’t close. His hitch to J’Mon Moore a play later yielded exactly one yard . His downfield try for Wesley Leftwich on third down was overthrown.

Missouri (4-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) punted again.

And again: this time after a five-yard run from Lock, then a holding call, one incomplete pass, then a completion — nope, Emanuel Hall dropped it upon further review.

Missouri’s streak of 13 touchdown-less quarters or 41 touchdown-less drives will wear on for another week. So will its losing streak, the first three-game losing streak in five years. So will speculation about Missouri’s hopes for a bowl game because reaching a six-win qualifying threshold got a lot harder after its loss.

“We’re frustrated because we’re playing really good defense and poor on offense,” said coach Gary Pinkel, stating the obvious.

Missouri mustered just 188 yards of offense. Freshman Corey Fatony punted nine times. His kicks out-gained Missouri’s offense by 241 yards.

“I don’t like punting a lot,” Fatony said, because it means the offense isn’t producing. “It’s bittersweet.”

Lock completed 41 percent of his passes. The Tigers ran for 80 yards on 19 attempts.

“We had a lot of guys open tonight and I didn’t hit them,” Lock said.

It comes the same week Pinkel said the Tigers would change personnel on their offensive line to jumpstart an  anemic attack.

They did.  Nate Crawford moved to left guard and Taylor Chappell went to right tackle, but it didn’t make a difference.

“Our inability to run the football with a young quarterback puts a tremendous amount of pressure on him,” Pinkel said.

By the three-minute mark in the third quarter, Missouri had only picked up two first downs. Fatony ran for 26 yards on fourth-and-seven from the Tigers’ own 27 yard-line to keep the drive going. The gain made the punter Missouri’s leading rusher at the time — a title he held until Lock scrambled for 33 yards with 1:30 left in the game.

Vanderbilt’s offense gained momentum against the Tigers by running the ball. On the Commodores’ touchdown drive, Vandy ran six times, all of them at the Tigers’ defensive ends, before Ralph Webb punched in a one-yard run.

“We’re frustrated, pissed off,” safety Ian Simon said. “We’re doing a lot of things right. We just have a lot of little stuff to fix.”

Missouri answered with a 35-yard field goal from Andrew Baggett with less than a minute in the first half.

That was all the scoring the Tigers’ offense did.

Pinkel challenged officials on a would-be touchdown pass to Nate Brown without luck. Lock also seemingly connected with Hall for a 40-some-yard gain, but upon a Vandy challenge, the catch was nullified. So was another 30-yard gainer to Leftwich moments later. The latter two will show up in the box score as drops. The former is another missed opportunity, the kind that has plagued Missouri all season long.

When Vanderbilt, leading by seven, punted back to Missouri with four minutes to play, Cam Hilton muffed the kick even after calling for a fair catch.

Oops.

And still, Missouri caught breaks of luck all afternoon. Vandy recovered, ran two more minutes off the clock, then proceeded to miss a field goal.

John Gibson seemingly fumbled the game’s opening kickoff, but officials ruled his forward progress was stopped before the ball came loose. Webb, Vandy’s touchdown rusher, dove for the end zone a play before his score, but was stood up by Missouri’s lunging Ian Simon. He flipped over the top of the line of scrimmage on the next play.

Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary tucked the ball on a read option midway through the fourth quarter and had a clear path to the end zone, but spun to the outside instead. The Commodores added a field goal after a Missouri defensive stand.

And outside of Fatony, defense was Missouri’s lone bright spot. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers passed the 100-tackle mark on the season with 12 tackles Saturday. Defensive end Charles Harris had three tackles for loss, including a strip-sack that set the Tigers’ offense up for its only points.

The defense forced a missed field goal with two minutes to play after that muffed kick and gave the ball back to Missouri’s offense, which drove without timeouts to the Vanderbilt 14 yard-line. Three shots from Lock, intermingled with a throw-away, into the end zone — first to Moore, then twice to Leftwich — flew off target.

“Down here in the red zone,” Lock said, “I wish I could have all four of those plays back.”

One touchdown was too much to ask for.

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