Watching Missouri’s offense struggle on Saturday at Faurot Field was as frustrating as fumbling with a Rubik’s Cube for three and a half hours. In theory, the pieces are there to succeed, but in actuality it’s just hours of seemingly hopeless twisting and turning.
It was another no-show by the offense, and Florida cruised to a 23-6 win in Columbia. Missouri (5-5, 2-4 in SEC) has now reached an astounding 30 drives without a touchdown, waking up the echoes of the miserable 2015 season.
Florida (9-2, 6-2 in SEC) has a very good defense, although this cratering of the offense is more than any one game or opponent. During its four-game losing streak, Missouri has scored 14, 7, 0 and 6 points. That’s an offensive nosedive, right as the season hit its most important stretch.
A decent crowd showed up on a reasonably pleasant November day, but they saw a team that just seems to be sloppy, and incapable of pulling itself out of this free fall. The personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are adding up. The Tigers committed three penalties on a single play on Saturday, which is kind of remarkable in a weird way.
Missouri’s running game has gradually faded away, and the offensive line has seemed to go with it. Quarterback Kelly Bryant was dodging Gator defenders most times he dropped back to pass, and Missouri’s receivers didn’t seem to be especially open. There’s just been too much underachieving, too many drops and mistakes by otherwise good players.
Missouri managed just 256 yards, the Tigers’ fourth straight game with less than 300 yards. The Tiger defense played pretty well, hanging in there and keeping Missouri in the game for a long time despite the lack of offense. Of course, Florida played it pretty safe on offense, knowing just avoiding big mistakes was probably the top priority, especially once the Gators got a two-score lead.
Now comes one for the diehards, when Missouri hosts Tennessee on Saturday night (6:30 p.m. on SEC Network). It’s the 5-5 bowl, two teams with balanced records that are moving in opposite directions. Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 in SEC) had a rough start to the season, dropping games against Georgia State and BYU they could have won, along with some other losses against tough teams. But second-year coach Jeremy Pruitt has the Volunteers playing much better, having won the last three and four of the last five. The Vols are off a bye week following a gritty, low-scoring win over Kentucky.
As frustrating as the Tiger offense can be to watch, the biggest disappointment of this season is the missed opportunity. The Tigers had a workable schedule, especially early on to build momentum and excitement about the program, and Missouri cut ticket prices to get people to games. But then they blew their chance.
It’ll be a cold night and probably a small crowd for Senior Night. But this still could be a competitive game between two teams scrambling to make a bowl.