On Saturday night in Alabama, Missouri was not the star of the show, but what a show it was. On Homecoming in Tuscaloosa, the Tigers lost 39-10 to Alabama in the massive Bryant-Denny Stadium.
No. 1 Alabama is a great team, with an explosive offense, a strong defense and a coach, Nick Saban, whose statue already stands near the statue of legendary coach Bear Bryant in front of the stadium. It was one of those nights Missouri fans dreamed about when the school moved to the SEC in 2012, their Tigers going against a strong team in a classic venue in the South.
When the speakers played “Dixieland Delight” in the fourth quarter, a traditional song that Alabama fans sing along while adding their own lyrics, the crowd went crazy. The song had been banned because, naturally, the Tide fans’ modified lyrics include obscenities about hated rival Auburn. But it was back, it was a gorgeous evening, and nearly 102,000 Tide and Tiger fans sang the song about a perfect night in Dixie.
The game itself was not especially competitive. To its credit, Missouri (3-3, 0-3 in SEC play) put up a fight. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) landed an early haymaker when Heisman frontrunner Tua Tagovailoa threw a perfect touchdown pass on the second play of the game. But Missouri showed some grit, trailing just 13-10 after one quarter. However, Tua threw two more touchdowns in the second quarter, and Missouri trailed 30-10 at the half.
Alabama outgained Missouri 564 yards to 212. Missouri’s offense struggled against the toughest defensive test they’ll face this season. The Tigers ran the ball 35 times for just 70 yards. Missouri’s passing game has hit a rough patch the last three games since receiver Emanual Hall hurt his hamstring. He didn’t play again Saturday. Quarterback Drew Lock often had to play the decidedly-not-fun game of “try to throw to receivers who aren’t open while soon-to-be NFL players chase you.” It didn’t go well.
It’s tough to make an broad judgments about the season based on this game. Alabama is outstanding and the Tigers are not playing their best right now. I don’t know of any Tiger fans who really thought Missouri could win.
The mindset changes for this week, Homecoming at Ol’ Mizzou. The Tigers host Memphis (3 p.m. on SEC Network). After three straight losses, with tough-looking games against Kentucky and Florida coming up, Missouri needs a win.
Memphis (4-3) nearly ended Central Florida’s 19-game winning streak Saturday before losing 31-30. Memphis does not appear to be as good as last year’s 10-win team, but these Tigers are certainly capable of winning in Columbia. Memphis averages 43.9 points per game, ninth in the nation, and they’re fifth in the nation in rushing yards per game. Darrell Henderson already has 1,133 rushing yards. This is another good test for Missouri’s defense, and the Tiger offense needs to get back on track. This is a big game for the Missouri program.