By Benjamin Herrold Missouri’s football season, which included an impressive six-game winning streak to close the season, ended with a thud on Dec. 27 when the Tigers lost 33-16 to Texas in the Texas Bowl.
It was a game the Tigers could have won, could have used to put an exclamation mark on the season and launched them into college football’s long offseason with some extra momentum. But instead it put a damper on the end of the season.
Missouri was playing without offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who will be taking the Central Florida head coaching job, which probably hurt the Tigers’ high-powered offense. But Missouri (7-6) played a pretty sloppy game overall, which can’t all be blamed on Heupel’s early departure. (Worth noting, the man Heupel is replacing, Scott Frost, stuck around to coach Central Florida’s bowl game before moving on to Nebraska.)
The Tigers looked out of sorts early, racking up penalties on Texas’ first drive, which ended in a touchdown. The Longhorns (7-6) had several players out due to injury, suspension or not playing to protect their health ahead of the NFL draft, but they brought a lot of energy. Missouri’s offense seldom looked comfortable or settled in, and Texas returned a fumble for a touchdown to take a 21-7 halftime lead.
Missouri scored a touchdown to draw within 21-13 on a gorgeous pass by Drew Lock, but the Tigers botched the extra point. One of those nights. Missouri also had a bad snap lead to a safety. Texas won comfortably.
The loss doesn’t diminish the fact Missouri made a nice turnaround to make a bowl. Bowl eligibility was big after two seasons without it. The winning streak was nice. But it did come against some struggling programs, and the resounding bowl loss gave a little more weight to that caveat.
This 2018 season should be very interesting for the Tigers. It’s year three under Barry Odom, and if Lock returns for his senior season Missouri should have another big offensive year. The SEC East could be fairly open, even if Georgia is the favorite. Missouri’s 2018 schedule is fairly challenging, including both teams in the national title game; hosting Georgia and a daunting trip to Tuscaloosa to take on the machine that is Alabama.
* * *
After more than two weeks off, Missouri’s basketball team begins Southeastern Conference play with a trip to South Carolina on Wednesday (8 p.m. on ESPN2) and hosting Florida Saturday (noon on CBS).
South Carolina (9-4) made an emotional run to the Final Four last year, but the Gamecocks are somewhat rebuilding this year. Still road games are tough and coach Frank Martin usually has his team playing with intensity. Then comes Saturday’s home game, one of the biggest home games of the season. Florida (9-4) had some mixed results early, but the Gators are a talented, well-coached team that could contend for the SEC title.
Both these games seem close to 50-50, but winning both would be a huge step forward for this Tiger team.