Grading the Tigers: Kansas

With its postseason hopes on the line, Missouri turned in a horrendous effort and earned a 31-14 loss to rival Kansas on Saturday. The Tigers allowed the Jayhawks to take a 28-0 lead and were never really in the game, despite two fourth-quarter scores. Check inside for the grades Missouri deserves after losing its fifth in a row.

Offense: Overall grade: F

Passing game: On the surface, the numbers aren't particularly bad. The Tigers finished with 262 yards through the air, one of their best showings of the season in that regard. Unfortunately, junior QB Brad Smith needed 40 passing attempts to reach that mark, completing just 15 of those. The bulk of those yards came late; Smith had just 86 passing yards at halftime.

Smith continues to look hesitant every time he drops back to pass. Even when he got rolling a bit in the fourth quarter, he continued to badly overthrow his receivers from time to time. Throughout the season, coach Gary Pinkel said he wanted to encourage Smith to use his arm more often. The result? A 4-6 record and no bowl game. Grade: F

Rushing game: Is there anything lower than an F? Does an F- exist? Or a G?

The Tigers were historically brutal on the ground, finishing with -6 yards on 27 attempts. The negative yardage is due to Smith getting sacked six times, which is more of a passing game problem, but the tailbacks were unable to break anything all game. The line chose to have its worse game of the year on the most important day; absolutely nothing went right. Grade: F

Quarterbacks: I don't think I ever could have imagined the elusive Smith having a negative rushing game at any point in his career, but we've arrived. Smith finished with -41 yards on 13 carries, half of which were sacks. The coaching staff only employed a handful of designed runs for Smith, essentially taking their best weapon out of their own hands. As much as Pinkel defends it, I cannot understand why this continues to happen. Smith had a pretty good connection going with junior WR Sean Coffey and freshman WR William Franklin in the fourth quarter, but it was way too little, way too late. Grade: F

Tailbacks: These guys never really got a chance. Junior Damien Nash had a quiet day, finishing with 38 yards on 12 carries, but eight of those came in the first half. Nash wasn't an option in the second half, although he did have what would have been a 42-yard reception for a touchdown wiped out on a holding penalty by freshman TE Martin Rucker. Of those that counted, Nash finished with three catches for 22 yards. Freshman Marcus Woods fell completely off the map; he had a carry on the first play of the Tigers' third drive -- gaining three yards -- but barely saw the field after that. It looks like Pinkel will do the smart thing and save freshman Tony Temple's redshirt by keeping him on the sideline the rest of the way. Grade: D

Wide receivers: We witnessed the emergence of Franklin, but it came two months too late. He was a revelation, making two athletic catches for 86 yards. (Franklin didn't get much love from Missouri's media relations people, though; on his first-quarter run, the press box announcer identified him as freshman Jerrill Humphrey, and the final stat package credited Franklin with one catch and sophomore LB David Richard, who also wears No. 3, with one. Missouri fans might want Richard on offense, but they haven't been appeased quite yet.) Coffey set a school record with his 10th touchdown grab of the season; he also led all receivers, catching five balls for 91 yards. Senior Thomson Omboga made some nice plays in his last game at Faurot, making three grabs for 51 yards. Sophomore Brad Ekwerekwu was silent again, making one catch for nine yards. It's time for Franklin to surpass Ek. Grade: B

Tight ends: Deathly silent here. The tight ends have gone from the passing game's best weapon to an afterthought. The group had just one catch on the afternoon, a three-yard grab by senior Victor Sesay. Freshman Martin Rucker has done nothing in weeks; his season, which started with such potential, is ending in monumental frustration. Grade: F

Offensive line: I can't figure out this group. It is alternating brutal and solid, which is unusual for the position. The inexperience factor that might have been an excuse early in the season has gone out the window; three seniors have started the last few games, junior guard Tony Palmer is essentially a senior and freshman Adam Spieker is practically a sophomore. The line allowed Smith to be sacked six times, which is inexcusable given his elusiveness. The running game was a nightmare, there were several holding penalties…it was a disaster. Grade: F

Defense: Overall grade F

Pass defense: Yes, that's right; a fourth-string quarterback burned the Tigers for 239 yards. Brian Luke showed the kind of poise that a fifth-year senior usually exhibits, not a kid that was running the scout team earlier this year. He was a ridiculous 14-of-17 in the first half; that is just disgraceful for what, statistically, was the best defense in the league. He finished 24-of-36 with one interception to go with two touchdowns, but the Tigers did nothing to pressure him all afternoon. Grade: F

Rush defense: Similarly, the Tigers allowed a reserve to beat up their defense. It is a little more understandable in this situation; Clark Green, who managed nearly 1,000 rushing yards last season, is a capable runner that could start for several Big 12 teams. Green finished with 118 of the Jayhawks' 135 rushing yards, a reasonable amount to give up to a struggling offense. Clark had to rush 32 times to reach that mark, although conservative play-calling late in the game hurt his average. The Tigers weren't horrible here; but they didn't force a turnover or make any big plays. Grade: D

Defensive line: Here's a good way to know the line had a bad day: backup end Lorenzo Williams tied for the lead in tackles among the line's members, recording five stops, including two for loss. This is not to take anything away from Williams, as this was his best day in a Tiger uniform, but Missouri needs more of an impact from its experienced players. Senior tackle Atiyyah Ellison did nothing in his last game at Faurot, recording just two assists on the afternoon. The Tigers had no pass rush whatsoever, recording zero sacks and giving Luke all the time he needed. Grade: F

Linebackers: Senior James Kinney became Missouri's all-time leading tackler early in the third quarter, surpassing DeMontie Cross with a stop of Brandon Rideau with 12:25 left. (An aside: Coffey was recognized on the PA for his touchdown reception record; why wasn't Kinney recognized? Food for thought.) Senior Hank Sweat had a decent afternoon, recording seven tackles, while sophomore Dedrick Harrington did more than he has the last several weeks, recording four, including half of a tackle for loss. Grade: D

Cornerbacks: Before the Tigers rallied and with the game seemingly out of reach, the Tigers had reserves juniors A.J. Kincade and Calvin Washington on the field here. That doesn't say much for the starters, senior Shirdonya Mitchell and junior Marcus King, who combined for four tackles. (Mitchell had none.) The Tigers needed a big play from this group to slow the passing game, but it never came. Grade: F

Safeties: This is the lone bright spot on defense. Sophomore David Overstreet was all over the field and made several nice stops, finishing the game with 13 tackles to lead everyone. Senior Nino Williams had an interception in the fourth quarter, a momentum changer that led to a Tiger touchdown on the following play. Junior Jason Simpson had his usual strong game, finishing with four tackles, including one for loss. Grade: C

Special teams: Overall grade D

Placekicking: Missouri had few scoring opportunities, but Pinkel didn't turn to junior Joe Tantarelli once. The Tigers had one field goal opportunity, a 46-yard try in the second quarter that freshman Adam Crossett missed wide right. Although not a reflection of his thoughts on the kicking game, Pinkel chose to go for two after cutting the Kansas lead to 28-6. His explanation for doing so made no sense whatsoever; Missouri was lucky to get back to 14 points later in the fourth quarter. Grade: F

Punting: Crossett had an up-and-down day in his second start at punter, kicking nine times for 347 yards, an average of 38.6 yards. Thanks to a seven-yard effort from Kansas' Kyle Tucker late in the third quarter, Crossett's average punt was three yards longer. For a third-stringer, it wasn't a bad outing. Senior Brock Harvey was in uniform but did not see any action. Grade: C-

Long snapper and holder: Senior Zach Strom had a few high snaps in the punting game, while Ekwerekwu did not have a problem on the one ball he put down. Grade: B-

Returners: Omboga nearly returned a punt for a score in the fourth quarter, returning one 44 yards before Tucker tripped him up. That was the only ball he returned all afternoon. The highlights of the kick returners' day were two huge hits that freshman CB Alex Woodley took in the first half. Grade: C

Coverage teams: Crossett's kicks are not consistent enough for the coverage team to deal with. Charles Gordon returned seven kicks for 87 yards, including one for 37, and was a threat all afternoon. Crossett forced Gordon to fumble in the first quarter, which Rucker recovered, negating a long return. The Kansas kick returners didn't do much, as Crossett boomed several of his kicks into the end zone for touchbacks. Grade: C-

What a disappointing this weekend has become for Tiger fans. After the basketball team struggled mightily in the first half in a loss to Davidson on Friday night, it showed some heart and got back into the contest late. The football Tigers tried to do that Saturday but couldn't get it done. There is no reason why Missouri should have been down 28-0, though; Kansas didn't do anything particularly well offensively.

The confusing thing, for me at least, is how this team could turn in such a thoroughly poor effort in a game that meant so much. There were three things on the line Saturday: a shot at the Big 12 North title, the Tigers' bowl eligibility and a win against the rival Jayhawks. Only one of those should be enough to fire up the Tigers. When it's all three, and Missouri underperforms as much as it did, something has to change.

Final Grade: F


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