MO State HS Sports

Knee-Jerk Reactions: LSU 49, Mizzou 39

Word of the day: Disconcerting.

Whether referring to a unique penalty call pulled out by the officials, or Mizzou’s inability to hang on to a double-digit lead against a high-profile opponent in a sold-out home game, Saturday didn’t deliver the season-boosting victory Mizzou fans were hoping for. The home Tigers came out firing early, and once Eli Drinkwitz decided to go for two after their first touchdown, they looked well on their way to putting together a special win.

However, it didn’t last. Multiple missed chances to create more separation left the door open for LSU’s high-powered offense to climb back in. The one early aggressive decision by Drinkwitz wasn’t followed by more. And a defense that had made just enough plays to hold up in previous victories couldn’t find enough this time. That all led to LSU shaking off its latest loss to Ole Miss with a 49-39 shootout win on the road.

So with that, let’s get to the Knee-Jerk Reactions:

The offense missed multiple chances to put the game away

For most of Saturday, Mizzou’s offense looked the exact same way they looked in their past three games. The group compiled 527 total yards, put together 15 plays of 15 yards or more, and reached their highest point total of the season (39). Brady Cook matched his career-high 395 yards from last week, but also showed signs of mortality, throwing two interceptions including the game-clincher near his own end zone for a pick-six. The other INT came following Mizzou’s three-straight touchdown drives to open the game, and slowed MU’s momentum.

With all of that, Mizzou’s offense had chances to build a two-score cushion later in the game, and failed. With a 22-17 lead, Mizzou could double-dip by scoring the final two minutes of the first half, then scoring again after receiving the second half kickoff. Out of a possible 14 points, they got just three, with penalties and drops plaguing both drives. LSU had a field goal to cut it to five on their next possession, forced a Mizzou three-and-out, and took the lead on a touchdown after that.

That’s the sequence that Mizzou will look back on and say “what if…?” If they had put themselves in better position to get touchdowns on those drives instead of settling for three, who knows what that could’ve done to the psyche on the LSU sideline. All things considered, the offense looked exactly how you’d want them to look in a game like this. But when they missed out on delivering the knockout punch, momentum shifted the other direction.

The defense couldn’t get Jayden Daniels to the ground

No doubt, LSU’s quarterback is one of those only-hope-to-contain-type players. But Mizzou’s defense couldn’t even do that. Daniels completed 15 of 21 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns, and was just as lethal on the ground with 130 rushing yards and a 31-yard touchdown. Late in the game, three running plays by Daniels converted third down plays, including one for that touchdown. A quarterback of Daniels’ caliber is sure to get his yards each game, but the times that he got free for scrambles and designed runs broke Mizzou’s back several times.

We need to give Daniels massive credit for this performance, especially since he came out at one point for injury and played through it. He deserved to win with the way he played. That said, this is a common theme we’ve noticed from Mizzou’s defense. They give themselves several chances to get the quarterback to the ground, but just can’t finish the job. And when they don’t, they lose contain and allow the QB to run free. Just one sack and three tackles for loss against this team was not going to cut it. In a game that we all expected to be a shootout, it ultimately came down to which defense could make a few keys plays here and there. Mizzou didn’t have enough to outlast the powerful LSU offense.

Penalties, penalties, penalties

It was sloppy in this category for both sides (LSU flagged for 11 penalties, 83 yards; Mizzou 11 times, 62 yards). But again, the times that Mizzou committed their infractions seemed to come at the worst times. Before LSU’s first touchdown, they got free first-and-goal plays on two Mizzou penalties. On Mizzou’s final drive of the half, Cam’Ron Johnson’s holding penalty nullified a Brady Cook run for a first down. Johnny Walker Jr. took two unsportsmanlike flags, kicking him out of the game. And perhaps the most killer, Connor Tollison’s 3rd-and-1 snap infraction started an avalanche of lost yardage on Mizzou’s last real chance to get the game-tying or game-winning score late in the fourth.

We saw similar mistakes from Mizzou in their win over Vanderbilt last week, but Mizzou is talented enough to overcome them against that type of opponent. They clearly were not talented enough to beat LSU, while also beating themselves. There are not many easy games left on Mizzou’s schedule, if at all. It squarely falls on the coaching staff to clean up these mistakes for the future. If they don’t, then Mizzou could be in for similar results.

Cody Schrader had a career day

It was going to take a balanced offensive attack to hang with LSU. The former walk-on’s contributions in Mizzou’s running game provided just that. Schrader’s first big burst came on a 21-yard touchdown run to answer LSU’s first score of the game. He also rattled off a 52-yard run in the third quarter, on the way to a 13-carry, 114-yard, three-touchdown performance.

Those numbers maybe suggest that he should’ve gotten more than 13 carries. Drinkwitz did share in the postgame that Schrader pulled his quad earlier in the week, and thought he wasn’t going to play Saturday. So it’s possible that they needed to watch it during this game. But I do wonder what could’ve been if Mizzou decided to run with Schrader on 2nd-and-1 near midfield on their last chance drive late in the fourth. In a game where he had that type of production, seemed it would make sense. Instead, they went incomplete pass, snap infraction, Cook fumble for a massive yardage loss, and missed fourth down. Again, it’s the old “what if” game and we don’t know what the result would’ve been. But Schrader definitely deserved better for the game he had, and Drinkwitz did acknowledge that afterward.

It’s a tough loss, but not a season-ender

This loss hurts. A 15-point lead against a top-25 opponent, and Mizzou can’t finish the job. Don’t hear me saying that Mizzou fans shouldn’t feel disappointed about how that game played out. Grabbing big leads and then losing them isn’t something you should be satisfied with. It’s fair to pull out the “same ol’ Mizzou” saying on a day like Saturday.

Nonetheless, to bring out another overused saying, it’s still just one game. Even with this loss, the optimist can still sketch out eight, even nine wins for Mizzou this season. With how Mizzou has performed on offense as of late, I wouldn’t count this team out of any battle going forward. Mizzou won’t be favored in at least half the teams they play in the second half of the season. But they also weren’t favored to win Saturday and had every chance to do just that. Give them more chances, and the results might be different.

What Mizzou can’t let happen is let this loss start a snowball effect of more down the road. Sure, eight to nine wins is possible, but so is six to seven. I’m not sure which range is more likely, but with the way Mizzou started the season at 5-0, only getting one to two more victories the rest of the way would take a lot of wind out of the sails. Time is running out for Mizzou to clean up the mistakes that didn’t doom them in the first five games, but *did* doom them Saturday. Kentucky will punish those exact same mistakes if you let them. We’ll see if this Mizzou team can get off the mat and take another step toward a season of progress.