A much improved Drew Lock = a much-improved offense, but does it = a much-improved Mizzou?

Sep 17, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock (3) throws the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I always say that while defense wins championships, offense wins games.

For Missouri, if their offense resembled a real college offense last year, they would have won games, and went to a bowl game. All it had to be was average with that Top 10 defense. Instead, it ranked last in the SEC in scoring (15.2 points per game) and second to last NATIONALLY in total offense (296.7), gaining just 16.3 first downs a game and rushing for just 119.9 per contest – both also last in the SEC. It was painful watching games knowing the offense simply wouldn’t do enough to win despite the defense getting stop after stop and losing two games when they allowed less than 10 points.

The question heading into this season was, was 2015 an outlier (like 2012), or was it the start of things to come?

Many, think it’s the start of things to come; Pinkel gone, recruiting in the SEC, etc. I, like I said in 2013 about 2012, say it’s an outlier. A lot of things went wrong that year, and last year, despite the atrocious offense, Missouri missed a bowl by one game and could have still won 7 games. The years were very similar.

But, if Missouri wanted to bounce back this year, it had to be a lot better on offense. And, that started with quarterback Drew Lock. It’s cliché to say it can’t get worse, but like Buddy Bell once said, “don’t ever say it can’t get worse, because it can.”

I suppose it’s possible for an Army All-American, and Elite 11 QB and a Top 3 QB in his class to be a bust, but, with his credentials, one had to expect him to improve. He was not put into an ideal situation last year with a poor WR group, a lack of consistent running game and a bad offensive line, and his performance suffered, tossing just 4 TD compared to 7 interceptions and just 1,322 yards. Not good.

The offense has certainly done their part this season, and it’s a welcome sight. Yes, there’s been two BUM opponents – Eastern Michigan and Delaware St. – but those are teams Missouri would have been simply pedestrian offensively against last year. And they’ve been driven by Lock, who looks nothing like the QB from last year and more like the hyped recruit he was. Is it simply because he has one more year experience? He isn’t throwing on his back foot anymore, running for his life or playing scared – and he has only been sacked once. He also has a REAL QB coach now in offensive coordinator Josh Huepel, the former Oklahoma QB.

If you like offense, Lock and Missouri have offered a lot of it.

Yes, they only scored 11 points in the Week 1 loss to West Virginia – but they ran 100 plays, the most since the Chase Daniel era in a win at New Mexico in 2005. Missouri fans were still down after the game, but it was already obvious that the offense was much improved, gaining 486 yards. Lock’s 280 yards was a career-high. Things got better from there, as that was his lowest output of the season. Lock threw for 450 yards – the third most in school history – and tied a school record with five TD passes the next week. Then, he followed that up with consecutive games of 322 or more yards by halftime. At home against Georgia, he followed up the 322-yard first half by throwing three picks and four completions in the second half in the 28-27 loss. He bounced back in a big way last week – topping 400 yards in just two quarters, before giving way to Marvin Zanders. Yes, the Delaware State is one of the worst teams in FCS, with 42 freshmen on the roster. That said, 400 yards in a half is impressive, easily the most in a half in Mizzou program history. That’s two 5-TD games in 2016 – or six more TOTAL 2015 TD passes.

Lock has thrown 14 TD this season to just 3 INT and is averaging 9.3 yards per attempt, while leading the SEC in passing yards (1,508). Scoring is way up, (44.5) from a year ago, as Missouri has already scored more total points (178) than they did all of last year (163), and has scored five more TD this year (24) than 2015 (19). The third-down conversions are up (49.2 percent from 30.2 percent) and red zone touchdown percentage is way up (64 percent from 32.3 percent). Averaging 569.5 yards per game, it’s nearly twice what they gained per game last year. Drew Lock, second in the nation in passing, the team ranks first in the SEC and fourth nationally in passing offense (391.2 ypg). Those numbers are somewhat deceptive because they have played TWO bum teams. But it won’t hurt to mention one more time just how bad Missouri’s offense was last season, where they were 112th in passing last season (165.5 ypg). The numbers are certainly to level out a bit once we get into the heart of SEC play, but they already gained 491 yards against Georgia. Sure, they’re allowing 426 yards a game, but they’ve also played good offensive teams in North Carolina and Ole Miss, along with Missouri. Tonight will be a big test for the Tigers at LSU. I’ll go out on a limb and say they won’t scored 10-14 points like many of the projections suggest they will.

The receiving core did not have one 100-yard game last season. They had two in the first game (J’Mon Moore and Chris Black), and it hasn’t stopped as their improvement and Lock’s improvement have gone hand-in-hand. They’ve had at least two 100-yard receivers in three of the four games so far, and had three last week in the 79-0 destruction of Delaware State – all in the first half. Moore, who has settled in as the go-to guy, was one of them. He’s topped 100 yards in three of the four games and leads the conference in receiving yards (434) and receiving touchdowns (6) and is tied for conference lead with 25 catches.

Overall, Missouri already has five different 100-yard receivers in 2016, and only one of them will not be here next year. No reason to think that the passing attack won’t continue to be one of, if not the best, in the SEC as long as Lock is still here. Had a hard time imagining that last season. And, the offensive line will return everyone next year. The same OL that has given Lock great protection all season. The running game, thanks partly due to injury, is still a work in progress, but certainly an upgrade over last season.

The defense has not been as good as advertised, but we have seen this time and time again when an offense is good, the defense isn’t as good as it was. The kicking game has been, well, interesting at time

Win, or lose tonight, Missouri is a much-improved team and WILL go to a bowl. That’s progress. That’s all you can ask in True Son Barry Odom’s first year at the helm. And, thanks to the offense, there is not one game on the remaining schedule – including LSU tonight in Baton Rouge (Leonard Fournette is unlikely to play) – that is not winnable for Missouri.


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