One week after Missouri roared into first place in the SEC East and debuted in AP poll at No. 22, the Tigers traveled to Nashville as a heavy favorite, and somehow lost 21-14 to a previously reeling and punchless Vanderbilt team.
Missouri (5-2, 2-1 in SEC) started slow, and then never really got its offense going. Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3 in SEC) was likely to get a hold of themselves and have a decent game again at some point. But Missouri still should have won this game. The Tigers were favored by 21 points, topping even losing as an 18-point favorite at Wyoming as Missouri’s biggest upset loss of the century.
Led by touchdowns from Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt led 14-7 at the half.
The third quarter was more offensive malaise from Missouri. But Missouri got an interception and ran it back to the 6, scoring on their next offensive play to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter. It seemed like Missouri might pull it out, like James Bond pulling a great escape to save the day in the end.
But they won’t be making a movie about this one. Vanderbilt calmly strung together a 7-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to take a 21-14 lead with 8:57 left. Missouri’s ensuing drive stalled out and the Tigers fittingly missed a field goal. There was still 6:00 left, but Missouri’s defense couldn’t get the Commodores off the field, and Vandy was able to run out the clock.
Missouri now heads to Kentucky on Saturday (6:30 p.m. on SEC Network). As egregious as Saturday’s loss was, the Tigers still have a lot to play for. Heading into Vanderbilt, Missouri could win out and win the SEC East. The Tigers can still win out and win the East. Even in they lose to Kentucky, they could still win out and win the East. What was lost Saturday was some margin of error, and a considerable amount of pride.
Kentucky (3-4, 1-4 in SEC play) is coming off a fairly pride-crushing loss itself, falling 21-0 in a rainy game at Georgia. The game was something of an affront to modern football offense, appropriately tied 0-0 at halftime. The winning quarterback, Jake Fromm, threw for 35 yards. Not on his longest throw, not on a drive… for the game.
It was worse for Kentucky, which to be fair is dealing with a wide receiver playing quarterback due to injuries. Lynn Bowden ran for 99 yards, but he completed only 2 of 15 passes for 17 yards, battling the rain and stout Georgia defense.
Missouri is again favored, and Kentucky has limitations on offense. But the Tigers haven’t beaten the Wildcats since 2014, and it’s hard to be too confident after a loss like on Saturday. My guess is Missouri bounces back this week, but based on what we’ve seen this season and in this sport, who knows what will happen under the lights in Bluegrass country Saturday.
By Benjamin Herrold