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Mizzou’s Dreadful Loss at South Carolina Was Likely the Beginning of the End for Coach Barry Odom

We’ll look back at Missouri’s pitiful 37-35 loss at South Carolina as the beginning of the end for Tigers coach Barry Odom.

Pardon my bluntness but there’s no reason to lean on fake politeness here.

This depressing defeat was inexcusable. And, to a large extent, incomprehensible. Earlier in the week Mizzou was posted as a two-point underdog,  a nod attributed to SC’s homefield edge. But even then the  betting line didn’t make a lot of sense.

South Carolina was hurting after a 24-10 loss at Kentucky, with the Wildcats punishing SC with a physically dominating performance that knocked multiple players out of the game.

Mizzou was coming off a bye week and had the benefit of extra rest and preparation.

And when SC quarterback Jake Bentley (knee) was scratched from the start against Mizzou, and replaced by senior Michael Scarnecchia, all bets were off … or at least changed.

Scarnecchia had never started a game collegiately until Saturday. Mizzou had Drew Lock, one of the most prolific passers in SEC history and a likely first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

If Missouri couldn’t go on the road and get a win over a solid but bruised SEC East frat brother that had to start an inexperienced QB, the setback would reflect terribly on Odom’s coaching ability, his preparation skills, and the overall competency of his leadership.

And when Mizzou opened a 23-14 lead by the end of the first half — the nine-point cushion should have been larger — there was no justifiable reason for a Tigers’ second-half choke.

By now, you obviously know of Mizzou’s meltdown in one of the worst losses donated to an opponent that we’ve seen in many years.

Mizzou lost despite having an assertive 490-377 edge in total yards …

Lost despite having the strength of a bullish ground game that smashed and dashed for 286 yards …

Lost despite three MU running backs, led by Damarea Crockett, averaging  7.4 yards per rush …

Lost despite having what should have been a substantial advantage at the quarterback position.

Lost despite having a nine-point lead at the half.

So what the hell happened?

Barry Odom football.

That’s what happened.

About 100 screw-ups, give or take a dozen.

And key players that failed to deliver in a game Mizzou had to win.

— Lock completed only 17 of 36 passes for a puny 5.7 yards per attempt — and no touchdowns. Worse: Two interceptions including a careless throw that went for an easy SC pick-six touchdown. This was Lock’s worst game since his freshman season — but he had an excuse then. This film of Lock’s sorry play will be a horror movie for NFL scouts and general managers.

— Mizzou’s red zone offense was brutal. The Tigers could have essentially locked in a victory by halftime but settled  for three field goals with the end zone in easy reach. Can someone explain why Mizzou and Lock kept chucking passes in the red zone instead of feeding the ball to running backs that were running over SC defenders for most of the day? Lock has been awful in the RZ this season, completing only 7 of 26 passes. Derek Dooley … paging Mizzou offensive coordinator Derek Dooley.

— On a day that Lock moved ahead of Eli Manning (Ole Miss) on the all-time SEC chart for career passing yards, Lock was thoroughly outplayed by Scarnecchia, who connected on 20 of 35 passes for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

— In the second half of Saturday’s debacle, Lock completed 3 of 14 passes for 20 yards and two interceptions.

— Lock went into the game with a 1-18 record against FBS teams that finished with winning records.

— Several of Lock’s passes were dropped including one that would have gone for a touchdown. But hold off on the excuses. Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown are still coping with groin injuries and didn’t make the trip to South Carolina. Despite the bye week, they couldn’t get ready to go. I’d have to think both receivers would have been in there against SC had Odom scratched them from the lineup from the Georgia game. Hall and Brown played against Georgia but weren’t anything close to 100 percent. Hall, especially, was running routes without his usual menacing speed. If Odom was trying to outsmart Georgia head coach Kirby Smart by using Hall as a decoy … well, that’s laughable. Smart knew what was up. The broadcasters calling the game on ESPN noted Hall’s decreased speed immediately. What was the point of playing two hobbled receivers who couldn’t help you against Georgia? And when Mizzou could have really used Hall and Brown to win at South Carolina, they weren’t available. Coaching.

— There was the disastrous and failed onside kick that wasn’t supposed to be an onside kick … but became an onside kick because of miscommunication between the coaches and MU kicker Tucker McCann.  It’s Odom’s third season, and this nonsense keeps happening.

— A red zone possession was blown up by two false start penalties, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the punter dropping the snap from center. The next MU possession: the Lock pick-six for an SC gift-bag score.

— Missouri had 10 penalties for 83 yards overall, and too many were of the knucklehead variety. This was just like the Georgia game: Mistakes, goof-ups, shakiness, baffling judgment, a glaring shortage of smarts and mental toughness. And, of course, a lack of discipline that Odom must own. A good football coach doesn’t have his team show up for games and mess up repeatedly by committing mindless errors. This stuff is an endless loop of the looney-tunes theme music.

— In spite of themselves the Tigers had a late chance to steal this game back from the home team … and then the Mizzou defense declined to cover the SC tight end on a critical 27-yard reception that led to the Gamecocks’ winning field goal. The Tigers rushed only three; they had eight guys in coverage. With the game on the line, how does a receiver get so open? Answer: This isn’t a smart football team. This isn’t a well-coached football team. And Odom’s speciality is defense, right?

This was Odom’s 30th game as head coach. By now, there’s no way to rationalize the frequency of the gaffes that cause Mizzou’s self-destruction in games against equal or superior opponents.

As mentioned many times, Missouri’s 4-0 streak against SEC opponents in the final stretch of 2017 looked good on paper, and the coach earned credit for keeping the Tigers together after an 0-5 start against FBS teams. But three of the four wins came against dysfunctional, demoralized opponents that had fired their head coach — or were about to. (Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas.) The other win was at Vanderbilt, which had lost six straight games by an average of 26 points as Mizzou came to Nashville. The four victories turned out to be fool’s gold.

Here are the meaningful numbers on Odom:

* An overall record of 14-16 … but only 7-15 against Power 5 opponents.

* A record of 2-15 against FBS teams with winning records.

* In the SEC, Odom is 6-12, including 2-7 on the road. Odom hadn’t won an SEC road game until smacking around two bad teams, Vandy and Arkansas, last season.

* An 0-6 record against ranked teams.

Mizzou, 3-2, plays at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. The final score will depend on the degree of mercy shown by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. The expected loss will sink Mizzou to 3-3 overall, and 0-3 in the SEC.

After that the Tigers’ schedule is down to six games: home game against Memphis of the American Conference … a home game against Kentucky … on the road at Florida … Vanderbilt at home … at Tennessee … Arkansas at home.

In theory, Mizzou is capable of winning four or five of the final six, but that’s unlikely if this team continues to give games away through negligent, haphazard play, and incompetent coaching.

If Odom saves his job and gets to a fourth season, then best of luck to Mizzou director of athletics Jim Sterk when it’s time to market home-game ticket packages for 2019. I don’t think Sterk’s goal is to have a football program that generates even less interest and lower revenue. Then again, Odom ranks 14th among the 14 SEC football coaches in annual compensation. In this instance I suppose the cliche is true: You get what you pay for.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Cred Check: Drew Lock and the Mizzou Tigers Can’t Afford To Lose at South Carolina.