Missouri fans were left shell shocked after Tennessee delivered a 38-point beatdown at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The 62-24 massacre was the most lopsided defeat of Eliah Drinkwitz’ tenure. Not to mention the Volunteers’ 62 points were the most the Tigers have allowed since 2016. It just so happens that loss was by Tennessee also. The 38-year old Drinkwitz has lost five of his last seven games overall. Now the program is left with more questions than answers.
The Tigers’ glaring weakness on defense got exposed big time by the Volunteers. Missouri has been abysmal at stopping the run all season and allowed a jaw-dropping, 458 yards on the ground at home. The Volunteers scored on six of their first seven drives.
The performance was so embarrassing for the Tigers, that Defensive Line Coach Jethro Franklin was fired the next day. After all, Missouri has allowed 332 rushing yards to Kentucky, 294 to SE Missouri State and 275 to Boston College.
Those numbers are a red flag for the Tigers’ defense the rest of the way. A challenging conference schedule looms and Missouri is going to see some elite running backs along the way. Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks is having a tough time replacing Nick Bolton’s leadership. It’s obvious the unit could use his intimidating presence.
Regardless, a defender needs to step up and set the tone up front. And until that happens, opposing teams will be licking their chops pounding the ball into the heart of the Tigers’ defense.
The defense has received the shoulder of the blame for Missouri’s shortcomings, but the offense is turning the ball over. True sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak got off to a strong start, with nine touchdown passes and one interception through the first three games. However, over the Tigers’ last two contests, the true sophomore has thrown just one touchdown and been picked off four times.
The good news for Drinkwitz is Missouri (2-3) has North Texas up next. The Mean Green have lost three-straight, and been outscored 99-35 during that span. North Texas (1-3) will give Bazelak an opportunity to clean up the turnovers and iron out the wrinkles on offense.
The Tigers need something positive to happen as a black cloud lingers over the team. It’s possible Franklin might’ve been used as the scapegoat, with Missouri having more issues within its’ staff. Everything starts from the head of the dragon, all the way down to the tail.
Drinkwitz is finding out the hard way that the competition in the Sun Belt and the Mountain West isn’t on par with the SEC. Drinkwitz is now 7-8 through his first 15 games with the program, which is better than his predecessor Barry Odom’s 5-10 mark through his.
There’s still a lot of football left to be played and no need to hit the panic button for Missouri fans, but Drinkwitz needs to right the ship. Fixing a leaky run defense doesn’t happen overnight, and often times it takes an entire offseason to fix. Once the offense starts to play smarter with the football the unit will see some consistency.
As for now, it’s back to the drawing board for Drinkwitz and his staff. Leaders need to emerge, players and assistants have to start holding themselves accountable and the fans are going to have to be patient.