After Missouri’s 24-14 loss to Troy on Thursday night, the Tigers struggled to explain why their offense had sputtered.
At Monday’s media day, after they had reviewed the game film, the Tigers didn’t offer excuses about the offense. They merely said their execution must improve.
“The difference in that game was our lack of execution and the mistakes that we made,” offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said.
Christensen said false start penalties and blocking struggles from the Tigers’ redshirt freshmen offensive lineman limited the possibilities of the offense.
Tyler Luellen and Adam Spieker were starting the second game of their careers.
“When you get some penalties and its first-and-15, second-and-15, you’re not going to run the ball in those situations,” Christensen said. “It’s tough to get five yards a pop running when you run it three times and it’s first-and-15.
“If we hadn’t put ourselves in bad situations on first, second down with offsides penalities and those type of things, then the play calling comes a little differently. If it’s first-and-15, the playbook narrows down.”
The Tigers finished with 112 yards rushing, led by Damien Nash, who had 69. They had 52 in the first quarter but needed to pass more later when they trailed.
Coach Gary Pinkel said the team used a similar gameplan against Troy to the one used in their first game. Against Arkansas State on Sept. 4, the Tigers had 506 total yards; they finished with 336 Thursday night.
On the Tigers’ second possession of the second quarter, they committed two straight false start penalties. That changed a third-and-seven into a third-and-17 and caused a punt.
Those two occurred when the Tigers had a 14-0 lead, but the errors continued to happen after the Trojans made their comeback.
Quarterback Brad Smith, whom Troy held to 36 yards rushing, said the Tigers can’t get frustrated or panic when the Tigers’ offense begins to sputter.
“Especially on offense, and that’s something we can correct,” Smith said. “We have to be able to find a way to get out of a bunch of straight three and outs, and we need to find a way to get out of (it). That’s something we have to figure out.”
The Tigers had a false start on a second-and-10 in the third quarter. That drive concluded when Troy blocked Brock Harvey’s punt attempt. On the next possession trailing 17-14, the Tigers had advanced to near midfield from their 13, but a false start on a first-down play stopped the drive’s momentum and caused another punt.
“I guess we got too ahead of ourselves and lost focus,” wide receiver Thomson Omboga said. “We started playing as one, but by the time they rised up and got support, I guess we stopped playing as one.”
The Tigers opened the game with two touchdown drives, completed with relative ease, but punted on their five next possessions. Then in the second half, they punted or turned the ball over on downs on 5-of-8 possessions.
Despite the issues along the offensive line, Pinkel said he can understand if Spieker and Luellen struggle somewhat if they’re learning.
“We had a couple young offensive linemen that I think are gonna be great players,” Pinkel said. “There’s a lot of anxiety out there, which is normal. They’ll get better, they’ll learn from it, and we’ll be a better football team.
“No way I’m blaming them, but there’s a certain degree, from my standpoint, that you’re going to have some issues. But I also think they’re gonna learn a remarkable amount from that, and they’ll get a lot better.”
Instead of viewing the Troy loss as a disheartening, frustrating experience, Christensen said he hopes his offense can learn from it.
“We saw the video,” he said. “We critiqued and corrected every single play, and so any mistake that was made has been corrected. Now we’re ready to move forward.”