Mizzou defense eager to show ‘what we can do’ after dreadful opener
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Immediately following his postgame news conference last week, Barry Odom flipped on the film.
The second-year Missouri coach had just watched his defense give up 492 yards to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Missouri State, and he needed to take a second look.
“As bad as it seemed on the field, it was that bad on video,” Odom said of the defense’s performance in the 72-43 win that opened the season.
Odom’s eyes widened — again — as he watched his team miss tackles. His face reddened — again — as he watched the secondary’s faulty play recognition.
In practices and film sessions since, both have been emphasized. To have a chance Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina (1-0), both issues will need to be improved.
“Hopefully, (that was) a wakeup call and a learning experience,” Missouri secondary coach Ryan Walters said. “It’s got to be, especially for the guys that haven’t done a lot of playing in the past.”
Although he played in 11 games last year, sophomore DeMarkus Acy was one of those guys. In the second quarter against Missouri State, Acy bit on a hitch route underneath and left tight end Erik Furmanek open for a 44-yard gain and, ultimately, a touchdown. Four minutes later, on third-and-24, Acy missed a tackle that would have saved an 89-yard touchdown.
In the first quarter, Missouri gave up a 75-yard touchdown run to Missouri State running back Calan Crowder. Six minutes later, Crowder broke free for another 34-yard score.
Those four plays proved critical in the Bears’ 35 first-half points, a number that surprised senior defensive end Jordan Harold and Walters. It was a number that dumbfounded defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross.
“None of us were expecting us to come out like that, no matter the opponent,” Cross said.
Odom admitted Missouri’s defense was as basic as could be in the second half, when the Bears were held to eight points.
The second half success gave a number of players confidence, including junior defensive tackles Rashad Brandon and Terry Beckner Jr.
Senior cornerback Logan Cheadle, who had an interception in the second quarter, said he’s confident the defense will be better against South Carolina — which boasts one of the nation’s best wide receivers in junior Deebo Samuel as well as formidable quarterback Jake Bentley.
Junior quarterback Drew Lock said he’s confident his teammates on defense will step up.
“Coach Odom and that whole staff on the defensive side have watched and diagnosed it all,” Lock said. “I think you saw our defense and what they can be in that second half.”
Against North Carolina State this past weekend, the 6-foot, 215-pound Samuel caught two touchdown passes from Bentley. Add sophomore running back Rico Dowdle to the mix and the Gamecocks pose a much different test that Missouri State.
Odom is aware of the difference and eager to see how Missouri’s defense will fare in its second game.
He’s not the only one.
“I’m ready now,” Harold said. “Everybody’s anxious to get back out there. Everybody is. Everybody wants to get back out there and show the world what we can do.”