Missouri Tigers fade in second half, lose Battle Line rivalry game to No. 25 Arkansas

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The Missouri Tigers ended the regular season in the loss column.

Mizzou suffered a 34-17 defeat to the No. 25 Arkansas Razorbacks on the road on Friday and finished the regular season 6-6 and 3-5 in the SEC.

“Today is about us not finding a way to get it done and me not doing a good enough job in having my team prepared, not doing a good enough job offensively having us ready to go,” Tigers coach Eliah Drinkwitz said.

Here are takeaways from the loss.

Bye, bye, Battle Line trophy

The Tigers’ loss in the Battle Line rivalry game ended a five-season winning streak against the Razorbacks.

Mizzou hadn’t lost to Arkansas since stumbling to a 28-3 defeat in 2015.

The Battle Line trophy, which was unveiled for that 2015 game, has been in Missouri’s possession since 2016, but it will now stay in Fayetteville.

This was the first meeting between the two programs in which Arkansas was ranked since Mizzou joined the SEC, and the No. 25 Razorbacks looked the part.

Despite the loss, the Tigers still hold the edge in the rivalry, leading 9-4 all-time.

Self-inflicted errors

The Missouri offense was burdened by its own mistakes throughout Friday’s game, either settling for field goals or punting the ball away on several occasions due to untimely penalties or other errors.

“I mean, just self inflicted wounds,” Drinkwitz said. “We kept getting in our own way.”

Mizzou punted the ball away on each of its first two drives. Both came from errors that could have been avoided. On third-and-2 on the first drive, Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak overthrew a wide-open Dionte ‘Boo’ Smith, who was in scoring position had the pass been completed.

A blocking penalty on center Michael Maietti moved the Tigers back 15 yards on its second drive of the game, and they had to punt the ball away shortly after. On the third drive of the game, the Tigers turned it over on downs after Bazelak threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Barrett Banister on fourth-and-5.

They settled for a 46-yard field goal from kicker Harrison Mevis after failing to convert on third-and-11 of their next drive, though that tied the game at 3-3 in the second quarter.

On the last drive of the half, Missouri running back Tyler Badie was flagged 10 yards for a face-mask penalty. The call put Mizzou in a third-and-20 situation, one that it was unable to convert. The drive ended in a punt, and the team entered halftime down 10-6 instead of up a score or one point shy of Arkansas.

“It was just a lot of penalties. We kind of backed ourselves up,” Badie said. “I made a dumb penalty by just doing unnecessary stuff, and as as a leader, I can’t do those type of things on the field. I got to be able to keep my emotions intact and just not let the other team to the best of me.”

Down 24-6 late in the third quarter, Mizzou had a chance to shorten its deficit, just 25 yards away from the end zone. But Maietti committed a holding penalty on third-and-9, moving his team back 10 yards. The Tigers couldn’t convert on third-and-19, and the drive ended with a 41-yard field goal for Mevis.

The final self-inflicted wound that sealed the loss came in the fourth quarter, when Bazelak threw an interception into the arms of cornerback Montaric Brown with 11 minutes, 37 seconds left. Backup Brady Cook was subbed into the game later in the fourth quarter.

“It just goes back to the execution of the game plan,” wide receiver Keke Chism said. “We had answers to the test and just weren’t able to get it done.”

All the Blaze

Missouri linebacker Blaze Alldredge played a crucial role for the defense in the first half of Friday’s game.

It was in large part thanks to Alldredge’s efforts that the Tigers only trailed by a field goal at the end of the first quarter, as he produced huge stops on each of Arkansas’ first three drives of the game.

On the fourth play of his team’s opening drive, Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson easily worked past the Mizzou defense in running 49 yards down the field to the 11-yard line. The Razorbacks were in the red zone with a prime opportunity to score, but the Tigers produced three big stops and held Arkansas to a 36-yard field goal, the last two of which came from Alldredge.

After limiting running back Dominique Johnson to no gain on second down, Alldredge ran around the Arkansas offensive line to get to Jefferson, whom he sacked for a loss of 3 yards with some help from defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire on third-and-14.

On third-and-1 on the Razorbacks’ next drive, Alldredge pinned down Johnson for no gain, ensuring the Hogs went three-and-out.

But perhaps Alldredge’s biggest play came on the first snap of Arkansas’ third drive of the game. The Rice transfer found a hole in the offensive line and tackled running back Trelon Smith with force, taking him to the ground at the 39-yard line and jarring the ball loose in the process. Linebacker Chad Bailey recovered the ball and Mizzou took over possession with 2:27 left in the first quarter.

“We had some D line movement going on, so I was really just trying to stay patient and wait until I saw some light,” Alldredge said of the play. “And they were hitting us with a little bit kind of outside zone, more horizontal action, and finally I saw my little tunnel open up on and I ran through.

“I think it was [Darius Robinson] already held him up for me a little bit, so I was really just looking to put a big hit on him inside out. And it was everything just kind of came together right there for me, being clean and untouched, just running to the ball and making a play.”

The Tigers scored their first points of the day on the ensuing drive, tying the game at 3-3.

Disastrous second half

Mizzou held the Arkansas offense to a three-and-out to start the third quarter, but things went downhill quickly from there.

Right after the Tigers punted the ball back on a three-and-out of their own, Jefferson threw a short pass to wide receiver De’Vion Warren on his left. Warren dashed 55 yards untouched before finally being brought down by defensive back Allie Green IV at the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Trelon Smith ran 4 yards up the middle into the end zone to give Arkansas a 17-6 lead with 11:13 left in the quarter.

The Razorbacks scored even faster on their next drive, after yet another Missouri three-and-out. On second-and-10, Jefferson fired a pass down the left sideline to Treylon Burks, who caught the ball at the 25-yard line and easily dashed into the end zone from there for a touchdown.

It only took the Razorbacks 1 minute, 27 seconds of possession on five plays to put 14 points on the Tigers, turning a close four-point game into a 18-point blowout in a hurry. With under 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Mizzou found itself down 24-6.

“Once it got to two scores, it kind of got away from us there,” Drinkwitz said.

Missouri settled for a field goal on its next drive, shortening the hole to two possessions. But the MU defense quickly gave up another big play, allowing Jefferson to connect with Ketron Jackson Jr. for 39 yards on third-and-8 to advance to the Missouri 34-yard line.

Though the Tigers kept Arkansas from scoring on that drive, the home team still added a field goal to extend its lead to 27-9 early in the fourth quarter.

Right after Bazelak threw his interception, the Missouri defense allowed another explosive play, this time a 32 yard rush from Warren that got the Razorbacks to the 15-yard line. They scored a few plays later, fully putting this one out of reach at 34-9 with 9:52 left.

“It’s hard as a defense to really practice against every trick play in the book over the course of the week, so you really just have to be disciplined and stick to your rules,” Alldredge said. “And we got out of that a couple times and they took advantage and hit big plays.”

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