In a game they were never really in from the opening kickoff, the Missouri Tigers suffered a 35-14 loss to No. 21 Texas A&M Saturday.
With the defeat, Mizzou drops to 3-4, still without a win in SEC play in three tries.
Here are takeaways from the loss.
Tigers plagued by a slow start
At times this season, the Mizzou offense has been able to bail out the defense to either win games or at least keep them close. But with no momentum on that side of the ball, the Tigers really didn’t stand a chance in this one.
Quarterback Connor Bazelak had troubles with the touted Aggies defense from the first drive. On second-and-15 at MU’s 34, the sophomore threw the ball into the arms of defensive back Jaylon Jones on a pass intended for wide receiver Tauskie Dove.
With great position at the 22 after a 17 yard return from Jones, Texas A&M got to work quickly, and less than two minutes later they were on the board on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Zach Calzada to wide receiver Ainias Smith.
On their following drive, the Tigers faced fourth-and-1 after three failed tries to pick up the first down. Head coach Eliah Drinkwitz was about to go for it when offensive lineman Javon Foster was called for a false start. Mizzou punted and Texas A&M scored again for a 14-0 lead.
Bazelak threw a second interception to put Texas A&M within 30 yards of the end zone later in the first quarter, but the Tigers were eventually bailed out by kicker Seth Small missing a 54-yard field goal.
The Tigers finally got their first score of the game with 8:09 left in the second quarter, from who else than running back Tyler Badie. The star running back, who has been one of the few bright spots for Mizzou this season, carved through the Texas A&M defense and fought off a defender clinging on his back to tough his way into the end zone on a 32-yard rush to bring the game within 14 points. Texas A&M scored on its next drive to extend its lead though.
Mizzou had a chance to try to put points on the board towards the end of the first half, but Drinkwitz instead elected to run out the clock, much to the dismay of the home crowd, who rained down boos on the struggling Tigers as they entered the break down 28-7.
Tigers continue to allow explosive plays
Allowing explosive plays has been an issue for the Mizzou defense all season, and those struggles were once again evident Saturday.
By the end of the first quarter, the Aggies already had 21 points thanks to two consecutive touchdowns where the Tigers let them go virtually untouched into the end zone.
On first-and-10, running back Isaiah Spiller found a hole and easily coasted 48 yards to the end zone to give Texas A&M a 14-0 lead. It only took the Aggies 1:33 to go 89 yards on five plays.
Later in the first quarter, defensive back Kris Abrams-Draine committed a pass interference penalty on third down, allowing the Aggies to advance to the 46-yard line instead of punting.
The Tigers then gave up consecutive big runs of 20 and 19 yards to allow Texas A&M to get into the end zone. And with under three minutes left in the first, wide receiver Devon Achane once again exposed the Mizzou defense, facing no fight as he dashed 20 yards into the end zone to put the home team into a 21-0 hole.
The defense didn’t allow things to get as out of hand as they could have — remember the Tennessee game? — but still, it wasn’t pretty.
On the afternoon, Mizzou gave up 15 explosive plays (runs of 10+ yards and completions of 15+ yards) for 293 yards. Texas A&M finished with 428 total yards on offense, 280 of which came on the ground.
Bye bye, bowl game
Entering Saturday’s game, a bowl game seemed unrealistic. But if somehow the Tigers could manage to upset the No. 21 Aggies and then pick up victories over Vanderbilt and South Carolina, they could reach six wins. Instead, they were blown out by A&M. Now bowl eligibility seems all but impossible with MU needing to win three of its last five games.
Getting a win over No. 1 Georgia is completely out of the question. And with the way Mizzou has looked so far in SEC play, beating No. 20 Florida and No. 17 Arkansas seems out of reach too.
There will always be crazy, mind-boggling upsets across college football, but this team simply hasn’t shown that it has what it takes to pull one of those off. This team is barely even competitive as of late.
Alas, it seems inevitable that the Tigers will finish the season short of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016.