Running the ball is the complementary part of a Missouri offense that came into a weekend showdown with LSU leading the SEC in total offense by a good stretch.
In a raucous environment at Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, LSU’s off-the-radar lockdown defense turned Mizzou’s run game into a detriment instead.
Missouri was never in sync offensively in a 42-7 loss, with quarterback Drew Lock often forced into quicker-than-he-wanted decisions because of a ferocious LSU pass rush.
One way to offset that is to take the starch out of those pass rushers with a strong running game, which Mizzou has done effectively enough all season: 4.4 yards a carry and 178.2 yards a game.
Whether it was by game plan or simply because LSU’s defense devoured that notion right off the bat Saturday, Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC) didn’t commit to the run quickly or ever for that matter and attempted only 20 true runs for 92 yards (Lock was sacked twice for -15 yards).
And without the security blanket of a running game to balance things out, Lock struggled.
The SEC’s top passer coming in with 1,508 yards and 14 touchdowns, Lock was a hot mess all night and connected on only 17-of-37 throws for a season-low 167 yards.
As much as the two sacks damaged Missouri’s chance for momentum, it was the constant pressure from the edges from Arden Key and Lewis Neal and the bull-rush nuisance provided by Davon Godchaux that were more problematic.
LSU (3-2, 2-1) was only credited with two quarterback hurries, but if there was a statistical category for making the QB miserable, the home Tigers would’ve racked up a bunch of those.
The inability to run the ball went hand-in-hand with Lock’s struggles, especially in the first half.
Missouri ran for 22 yards in the first quarter, just 4 in the second. Mizzou’s drive chart in the first 30 minutes was a nightmare: Punt, punt, punt (7 total yards on the initial nine snaps), interception, punt, punt, end of the half.
With so much swirling badly for Missouri, it never held the ball for longer than 1:46 in the first half, which is OK if points are the result. Those never came.
Instead, LSU raced ahead 21-0 at halftime and played its own version of keep-away on the way to piling up 634 yards to Mizzou’s 265 – a mind-boggling 304.5 yards under its season average.
Unable to move the ball on the ground, Missouri carved out only 19 yards on 12 first-down snaps in the first half and that set the tone for a night full on offensive frustration.
Ish Witter led Missouri with a pedestrian 48 yards on 11 carries and Damarea Crockett’s 21-yard burst late in the third quarter was the longest run of the night and that came with LSU in full-on romp mode with a 28-0 lead.
Missouri never produced more than two first downs on a first-half series and did so only twice in the second, one on an 81-yard touchdown drive capped by a gadget play.
All of that added up to a frustrating night for one of the SEC’s top offenses and it all began – or never got started, depending on how you look at it – with Missouri’s inability to generate anything on the ground.