Heartbreak in Chestnut Hill: recapping Mizzou’s OT loss to Boston College

The Tigers entered the fourth quarter trailing 27-17 with the ball in their hands after a long Boston College drive resulted in a field goal. Mizzou needed urgency, and that’s what they showed until the end of regulation.

Mizzou completed a 75-yard touchdown drive in less than three minutes, forced a subsequent BC three-and-out, and drove 57 yards into the end zone once more. Tyler Badie’s seven-yard scamper up the middle put the Tigers in front, 31-27.

But the defense couldn’t stop the Eagles’ response, a 15-play, 60-yard drive with 11 runs that took the clock down to 25 seconds and put BC ahead by three points. The Tigers needed to put themselves in field goal range, and three impressive completions by Connor Bazelak gave Harrison Mevis a chance to tie it from 56 yards away. 

He struck it pure, improbably forcing overtime. Boston College took possession first, scoring a touchdown to put the pressure on the Tigers. Bazelak’s first overtime throw, an underthrown fade to Keke Chism on the far side, was picked off, and Mizzou fell to 2-2 with the 41-34 loss.

Mizzou’s performance did not exhibit perfection, and many problems with the Tigers’ effort were ones that have plagued them all season. But, there were plenty of bright moments to take from the competitive game, regardless of the mistakes that left Mizzou outmatched.

Here are the key takeaways from Saturday’s game in Boston and from around the college football world.

Connor Bazelak’s confidence cannot be shaken

It’s hard to knock Bazelak in key moments. The quarterback led the Tigers to a score in three of their four drives in the first half with a holding penalty on Javon Foster contributing to the one scoreless instance. Even after his opening second-half drive ended in just two plays when BC’s Josh DeBerry picked off a floating pass to Barrett Banister, Bazelak completed big passes down the stretch to keep the Tigers in the game.

“It wasn’t looking good there, 20 seconds left, 25, whatever it was,” Banister said, “and we’ve got to go get a field goal… Connor made some really good throws there, and we were down even before that. We were down, what, 10, something like that, to even get back and get a lead. At that point, you know, I think it’s a testament to Connor. It’s a testament to our offense, and it’s a testament to our culture that we’re trying to build around here, you know. Like, we’re never out of it.”

But he acknowledged that there’s still necessary improvement in front of the offense. 

“The next part of it is ‘how can we finish those games,’ you know what I mean,” Banister said. “And that’s the frustrating part, I mean, it’s a tough pill to swallow. We’ve had the ball twice and haven’t been able to finish it out, but, you know, I think we’re working in that direction and we’re learning how to finish these games off. And I think when we do, you know, the dominos will start falling.”

Bazelak wound up completing 30 of his 41 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both turnovers were a result of underthrown balls that didn’t have enough pace to make it to the receiver in time, but his ability to attack the defense kept Boston College in check and opened up some room for the running game to succeed. 

Tyler Badie once again was the primary weapon for the Tigers, putting up two touchdowns on over 100 scrimmage yards, and Bazelak spread the ball out to a variety of guys beyond Badie. Balance continued to be the name of the game for the Mizzou offense, and Bazelak made the right decisions in the large majority of spots. Drinkwitz put the offense in the position to succeed on the large majority of his play calls, like the flea flicker deep ball to Tauskie Dove in the second quarter or the many third-down crossers that Bazelak put on the numbers of his receivers (the Tigers went 8 for 12 on third downs). 

But, neither are immune from mistakes, like the first and only offensive play of overtime. Overcoming those will be crucial moving forward, especially if the defense isn’t giving the offense many favors. 

The run defense continues to let down

The matchup of the BC offense against the Mizzou defense left little for interpretation. Going in, the Tigers knew the game plan of Jeff Hafley and Frank Cignetti would revolve around zone runs, and Mizzou struggled to stop it. 

After allowing 272 rushing yards in the contest, Mizzou has given up the second-most rushing yards per game in the FBS (271 yards per game, only ahead of Ohio). The Tigers weren’t perfect in preventing the pass, either, as Dennis Grosel completed 18 of 29 passes for 175 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But, the glaring weakness was on the ground.

The most repugnant it got was on Pat Garwo’s 67-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, where all three levels of the defense were flat-out beat. But, the Eagles consistently drove forward on chunk gains from Garwo, Travis Levy and Alec Sinkfield, and even Grosel effectively used his legs to convert in multiple late-down situations.

Drinkwitz took responsibility in failing to make sure that his defensive personnel were zoned in.

“There were a lot of things that needed to be corrected,” he said. “But, honestly, it really started mostly with me, in making sure that, as the head football coach, I’ve got everybody in sync and everybody in rhythm, that I’m doing a good job of making sure that the whole thing is functioning properly, and you know, there’s some mistakes that were made, some missed tackles, but I think the biggest thing was communication and making sure we were all on the same page of what we were supposed to do on that play.”

The Tiger defense made big plays on multiple occasions, including Martez Manuel and Blaze Alldredge combining for a sack at the end of the first half in addition to a big three-and-out stop in the fourth quarter. But, if the defense consistently fails to keep offenses in check, then the offense will continue to face drastic situations when competing against stronger teams. 

Arkansas is taking advantage of their additions of former Tigers

The undefeated Arkansas Razorbacks are one of the biggest surprises in all of college football, and one big reason for that is Barry Odom’s defense. They held Texas A&M to just 262 total yards in a 20-10 victory at AT&T Stadium (with the caveat that A&M continues to start Zach Calzada in place of the injured Haynes King at QB), and the defensive standout for Arkansas was former Tiger and Rock Bridge Bruin Tre Williams.

Williams and former Tiger Markell Utsey both rotate into the Arkansas defensive line and have provided a combined 20 tackles and 4.5 sacks (15 tackles and 4 sacks by Williams alone), bringing a strong presence that is surely missed by Mizzou. They will both be big factors in the Battle Line Rivalry this November when Arkansas seeks revenge against the Tigers.

Florida outlasts Tennessee at home, but not without fight from Vols

The 38-14 scoreline doesn’t lend much credence to Tennessee’s effort in Gainesville, but Josh Heupel’s team kept things close through the first half, trailing by just three points. The second half featured struggles in late-down situations, as the Volunteers turned the ball over on downs and punted in Florida territory on their third-quarter drives, but they didn’t commit any turnovers and found ways to get downfield by running and passing.

Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small provide the Vols with a strong one-two punch in the backfield, both rushing for over 50 yards last Saturday. Additionally, either Hendon Hooker or Joe Milton bring the ability to beat defenses running the ball, not ideal for a Mizzou defense that struggles to contain the quarterback or stop the run in general.

Although the Tigers have a week to clean things up and continue to improve on implementing their scheme ahead of this Saturday’s game at Faurot Field, the Vols are tuned in to Mizzou’s struggles.

“I don’t even want to get into it,” Evans said when asked about the upcoming matchup against Missouri. “We’re going to have some fun.”

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