COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Losing a starting quarterback in the heart of its first SEC season was bad enough for Missouri. Fixing an ailing offense against defending national champion and top-ranked Alabama? More like a recipe for disaster.
Missouri’s season-long offensive woes continued on Saturday in a 42-10 drubbing by Alabama (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference). The Tigers gained just three rushing yards on 28 carries and 126 passing yards while converting just two of 15 third-down plays. Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC) failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time in 90 games.
Coach Gary Pinkel chose to credit the Crimson Tide’s swarming defense rather than blame his own offense’s shortcomings. Reserve quarterback Corbin Berkstresser, a redshirt freshman forced to start after James Franklin’s early-game knee injury in a 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt last week, was 12 for 29 with two interceptions.
“That is maybe the best football team I’ve ever seen,” Pinkel said.
Outscored 126-55 in its first four conference games, Missouri now gets an extra week to lick its wounds before an Oct. 27 home game against Kentucky. With just one nonconference home game remaining against Syracuse in November, the Tigers will likely have to win at least one of their three remaining SEC road games – against Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M – to reach a bowl game for the eighth straight year.
“We know that we’ve got to get it going,” said receiver L’Damian Washington. “Our season isn’t over. We can still get to a bowl game. That’s basically the goal right now.”
Missouri had few bright spots, spotting Alabama a 21-point lead in the first quarter, with none of Alabama’s scoring drives taking more than three plays or lasting longer than 72 seconds. The Tigers’ sole score came on a 98-yard Marcus Murphy kickoff return in the second quarter. He set a school single-season record with the score, his fourth kick return TD.
But that highlight came after a 38-minute lightning delay led to a mandatory evacuation of Memorial Stadium. Once play resumed, only a fraction of the crowd in what began as an official sellout of 71,004-seat bothered to return.
Eddie Lacy had a career-best 177 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns for Alabama, including a 73-yarder on the game’s second snap, for his second 100-yard game of the year. T.J. Yeldon had 144 yards on 18 carries and two TDs, also his second time in triple digits this season. That gave Alabama a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time this season. Quarterback AJ McCarron went 16 for 21 for 171 yards.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson led Missouri with 14 tackles, and defensive end Michael Sam had 1.5 quarterback sacks and forced two fumbles, but they had little help.
“I don’t think we tackled well, especially in the first half,” Pinkel said. “Just missed tackles. We’re not locked in. We’re making them better than they were.”
Pinkel was noncommittal on whether he expected Franklin – who also missed a 24-20 win over Arizona State with a shoulder injury – to return against Kentucky, but receiver T.J. Moe said expects Franklin back.
After Murphy’s score, the Tigers were on the verge of slicing further into Alabama’s cushion, advancing to the 8 at the end of the first half off a fumbled snap by punter Cody Mandell. But Adrian Hubbard stripped Berkstresser on a sack and C.J. Mosley ended up with the ball at the Missouri 49 with two seconds left.
Pinkel refused to use Franklin’s absence or the travails of his injury-plagued offensive line as an excuse for Missouri’s disappointing start.
“I will not talk about injuries for the rest of the year,” he said. “It’s not going to matter. We have to use our (remaining) players. We have to get it done.”