With a 17-0 lead and 0:54 left in the first half Saturday, the Missouri football team’s defense had lived up to its top-ranked billing in the Big 12 Conference.
Oklahoma State had gained 36 yards of offense and its potent rushing attack was stuck in neutral. During the final 31 minutes, though, the Cowboys moved the ball with relative ease against Missouri, finishing with 388 yards, 105 more than the Tigers’ allow on average.
After the loss, defensive end Xzavie Jackson said the difference was Missouri’s lack of execution; nothing else had changed during halftime.
“That’s all it is, it’s all about making plays,” Jackson said. “We gave up a couple plays in the second half.”
Jackson also said allowing the Cowboys to drive 80 yards in less than a minute to close out the first half caused a huge letdown for the Tigers.
Linebacker David Richard agreed during Missouri’s media day Monday.
“It’s just us executing, I know myself, I could have made a difference, a couple plays where I was outside of my run gap,” Richard said. "Had I been in that run gap, I might have stopped a couple runs, so it’s just stuff we can improve on.”
While execution was identified as the main culprit, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus also mentioned fundamentals and better coaching as ways to prevent another collapse.
“Everything always comes down to fundamentals of your position, leverage angles and making sure that you’re executing the calls that are supposed to be executed,” Eberflus said. “And those guys understand where they’re supposed to fit and what they’re supposed to do. And we have to do a better job coaching and we have to do a better job executing.”
One thing that was not a surprise was that the Cowboys stayed with the running attack. The Cowboys entered the game averaging 14 passes a game and against Missouri, they attempted 15.
The Tigers said this was what they expected from the Cowboys even with the 17-0 lead.
“They stuck with their game plan,” defensive tackle C.J. Mosley said. “They ran the ball and they ran it some more. They had a couple passes, and their running back had 31 carries.
“It just came down to us tackling the ball and doing what we were doing the first half in the second.”
Jackson said the lapse in play came as a result of on-field performance, not anything the coaches could’ve done to prepare the Tigers at the half.
“They stuck to their game plan, we stuck to our game plan and we just didn’t put people in the right spots, people didn’t fill their gaps right,” Jackson said. “That’s our fault, that’s not the coaches’ fault. Coach called the defense he wanted and we didn’t execute.”
While safety Jason Simpson said the Tigers never sit on a lead, linebacker Dedrick Harrington said the team was not as mentally sharp in the second half.
“It’s all focus and concentration for 60 minutes, you don’t play for 30, you don’t play for 45, you play for 60,” Harrington said. “You’ve probably heard coach Pinkel say before, ‘It’s difficult to win.’ And you can’t help but see that, nobody’s ever going to lay down for you and they shouldn’t. So a 60-minute game is what we have to play.”
Even with mental mistakes costing the Tigers at home, Richard said he is not worried about the problems following the team to Nebraska.
“It’s something we can’t have happen,” Richard said. “We’re not looking at any type of stadium or being intimidated by anywhere we go play, everywhere we go we take the Zou with us. So us playing at Nebraska, we’re going to play there as we would play in the stadium right across the street.”