By Michael Southern
Special to Tidesports
While the high-scoring Alabama offense probably garnered most of the attention from the Missouri coaching staff during game-week preparation, the Crimson Tide defense resurfaced Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium to become the biggest challenge for the Tigers.
In front of a raucous homecoming fan base eager to celebrate the musical return of “Dixieland Delight,” Missouri ran into an Alabama defense eager to redeem its subpar performance last week against Arkansas.
Behind the leadership of quarterback Drew Lock, the Missouri offense averaged 39 points and more than 500 yards of offense before misfiring in a 39-10 loss to the Crimson Tide.
“You see (Alabama) on video and there were things you wonder how it would look up close and personal,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said. “(Alabama) was as good and maybe even better, the speed, the strength in every area.
“You look at special teams, you look at their ability in every position to go. I’m really, really impressed with the complete football team that they are.”
Lock, who has drawn attention from NFL scouts for his arm talent, had his Tigers trailing only 13-10 at the end of the first quarter.
But in an explosive second quarter, the Crimson Tide erupted for 17 points for a 30-10 halftime lead.
“The thing that we talked over and over and tried to do this week was eliminate explosive plays,” Odom said. “We got put in a couple of bad situations with turnovers. Playing against that team, that’s a recipe for getting swamped real quick.
“We weren’t efficient enough offensively to sustain drives. That’s on all eleven guys.”
Alabama’s Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa played through the first half with a right-knee sprain and didn’t play after the first series of the second half when he injured his knee further.
But the Tigers could not take advantage of his absence as the Alabama defense sacked Lock for a safety on the final play of the third quarter and held Missouri scoreless in the second half.
“You can never blame someone for a loss obviously, but they were pointing fingers at Drew,” Missouri right tackle Paul Adams said. “We needed to keep him more clean, I mean I looked at his jersey at the end of the night and there was too much grass and red on it. I just told him to keep his head up.
“I can’t thank my teammates enough for not quitting. There’s a lot of teams in America being down that amount would quit. We still had our ones in the last eight seconds of the game. That kind of shows the grit of our team. We really don’t care who we’re going against.”