LUBBOCK, Texas — Kendial Lawrence should have been happy.
The sophomore running back completed the longest play of his college career, a 71-yard touchdown run, in his team’s second drive of Saturday’s game. With Grant Ressel’s extra point, the Tigers stretched their early lead to 14-0, but there was something ominous about the score, something that would haunt Missouri all the way to the end of its 24-17 loss to Texas Tech. At that point, quarterback Blaine Gabbert still had not completed a pass, and the offense’s inability to move the ball through the air ultimately doomed the team.
In its first eight games of the season, the Missouri football team could never have been accused of doing too well running the football. In every game except its victory over Miami (Ohio) — in which it had three more rushing yards than passing yards — the team had more success passing than rushing. On Saturday, everything changed. Only 27 percent of the team’s total yards came from passes.
Wide receiver T.J. Moe, who led the team in receiving with seven catches for 62 yards, said that this lack of offensive diversity ultimately led to the loss.
“If you want to be successful in the spread offense, you have to catch the ball effectively,” Moe said.
Lawrence, who finished the game as the team’s leading rusher, carried the ball four times for 101 yards in the first half. In the second half as the Tigers tried to use their passing game, he had two carries for minus-five yards.
“We just tried to get some other things open and be a total offense, and I guess we just didn’t execute it in the second half,” Lawrence said.
Missouri rushed the ball 22 times in the first half and nine times in the second half. Gabbert said that he supported the coaches’ decision to diversify the offense in the second half, noting that relying only on one element of the game will never lead to success. The offense as a whole needed to work better together, especially once the Texas Tech defense adjusted to the Missouri running game and was better able to stop it.
“Eleven people are on offense,” Gabbert said. “Not one person is going to win or lose a football game.”
Maybe it takes more than one person to stall an offense, but Moe said that the wide receivers were the group who should claim responsibility for the loss. He acknowledged the contributions that running backs Lawrence and Murphy made to the game but said that the receivers simply didn’t do their part.
Of Missouri's 12 pass completions, the biggest was a 14-yard gain to Moe.
“We’ve got to get it figured out, whatever it is,” Moe said. “We had some really good plays from our running backs, but we didn’t have anything from our receivers.”
After the game, Moe spoke in a clipped tone as he discussed the failures of the passing game, his speech interrupted with frustrated pauses and sighs. It was the voice of someone who knew his team is better than it showed, who knew that some of the blame rested on his shoulders.
“I think we’ve proven this year when we come out and play our A game, we can beat anyone,” Moe said.
For Moe and the rest of the Missouri offense, that was the problem. They know they move the ball through the air, they know they are more than one dimension, they know they’re better than that.