UPDATED, 11:18 p.m.
COLUMBIA, Mo. • Missouri vanquished its touchdown drought Thursday, but its losing streak will live to see another week. A 31-13 defeat to No. 24 Mississippi State extended the Tigers’ losing skid to four and put the program’s postseason hopes on life support.
This one unfolded differently than Mizzou’s recent meltdowns. For the first time all season, the Tigers’ defense couldn’t stop the bleeding. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott threw four touchdown passes — Mizzou had allowed just five TD passes in their first eight games — and while the Tigers finally managed to visit the end zone for the first time in more than a month, their flickers of offense couldn’t match the Bulldogs’ flames at Memorial Stadium.
The loss dropped Missouri to 4-5 and 1-5 in Southeastern Conference play. Gary Pinkel’s team must win two of its final three games to salvage a .500 record in the regular season and secure bowl eligibility. The three game-stretch begins Nov. 14 against Brigham Young in Kansas City.
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Mississippi State, making its first visit to Faurot Field since 1984, improved to 7-2 and 3-2 in conference play.
In freshman quarterback Drew Lock’s fifth career start and first since Mizzou suspended former starter Maty Mauk for the rest of the season, the understudy-turned-starter spent most of the night running from blobs of white. Those were Mississippi State’s seemingly endless supply of unblocked pass rushers. Lock was sacked five times and threw two interceptions, one on a pass tipped by a Mississippi State defensive lineman, another on a dreadful decision to start the third quarter.
Before that, the Tigers got to celebrate a rare touchdown, their first since Oct. 3, breaking a streak of 47 consecutive series since the last end zone visit. With rain pummeling Faurot Field and a generously announced crowd of 58,878, tailback Russell Hansbrough led a briefly revitalized running game in the second quarter with a 14-yard slash through the middle of Mississippi State’s defense. It’s a wonder the Tigers remembered how to celebrate the score. It had been since the third quarter against South Carolina on Oct. 3 since they last crossed the goal line.
Trailing 14-13 at halftime, the Tigers couldn’t sustain any momentum in the second half. After Lock’s interception to begin the third quarter, the offense punted twice and failed to convert a pair of fourth downs. An illegal formation erased a Tyler Hunt touchdown run in the game’s final minutes, leading to an incomplete pass on fourth down to squander the red-zone opportunity.
Lock completed 11 of 26 passes for 107 yards.
As much as the Tigers attempted to leave third-string tailback Hunt out of the game plan, the senior came through with a few sparks of offense, a 35-yard catch and run on a screen pass and a 72-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Combined with Hansbrough (81 rushing yards) and backup Ish Witter (62), Mizzou’s tailbacks combined for 228 yards on 34 carries.
But unlike the Tigers’ other SEC defeats, cracks in the defense appeared as Prescott completed 27 of 40 passes for 303 yards. Two more Prescott touchdown passes extended Mississippi State's lead in the third quarter as the senior connected with De'Runnya Wilson and Fred Brown.
The bye week didn’t seem to do much for Missouri’s offense, though the Tigers managed some points in the first quarter. Andrew Baggett’s field goal late in the quarter cut the Bulldogs' lead to 7-3.
The Tigers’ first two possessions went much like the many that came before - three plays and a punt. Mizzou managed a first down on its third series with Witter’s 17-yard run, but two plays later, defensive end Torrey Dale tipped Lock’s pass at the line of scrimmage and linebacker Gerri Green made a diving interception to spoil the drive.
By then, the Tigers were already in a hole. Mississippi State didn’t need long to grab a 7-0 lead, four plays in all, finished by a 36-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Fred Ross on a pass down the seam over linebacker Michael Scherer trailing in coverage.
A Mississippi State turnover led to Mizzou’s best early field position and the Tigers responded with points. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers stripped running back Brandon Holloway near midfield with defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. getting the recovery. The Tigers punctured the red zone but sputtered from there and settled for Baggett’s 31-yard field goal.
Two more Dak Prescott touchdown passes extended Mississippi State's lead over Missouri to 31-13 heading into the fourth quarter Thursday, what figured to be an insurmountable lead against a Mizzou team that hasn't scored more than 18 points in a game in 33 days.
The Bulldogs surged ahead on Prescott's TD passes to De'Runnya Wilson and Fred Brown, plus a 36-yard field goal by Westin Graves. The Tigers failed to score on all three of their third-quarter possessions, starting with an interception by Drew Lock on MU's first play from scrimmage in the second half.
Prescott had 285 passing yards through three quarters, while Lock completed just 7 of 16 passes for 61 yards and two interceptions.
As the heavens opened and poured buckets of rain on Faurot Field, a miracle occurred: Missouri scored a touchdown.
After 47 consecutive possessions without a TD, dating back to the fourth quarter against South Carolina on Oct. 3, the Tigers visited the end zone late in the second quarter Thursday against Mississippi State. Russell Hansbrough’s 14-yard touchdown run broke the drought, marking the Tigers’ first TD in a span of 226 minutes and 46 seconds.
The Tigers went into halftime trailing Mississippi State 14-13
Missouri had gone 14 full quarters without a touchdown including three straight games against Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt. Until Thursday’s second-quarter score, it was the first time Missouri had gone three consecutive games without a touchdown since 1937.
Hansbrough and backup tailback Ish Witter were the catalysts to Mizzou’s revitalized offense in the first half, combining for 111 rushing yards on 20 carries. That was more rushing yards than the Tigers managed in each of their three previous games.
Before the Mizzou TD, the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 14-6 on Dak Prescott’s 28-yard touchdown pass to De’Runnya Wilson. Missouri had earlier converted a pair of Mississippi State fumbles into field goals.
The bye week didn’t seem to do much for Missouri’s offense Thursday against Mississippi State, though the Tigers managed some points in the first quarter. Andrew Baggett’s field goal late in the quarter cut the Bulldogs lead to 7-3 as MSU regained possession heading into the second quarter.
The Tigers’ first two possessions went much like the many that came before - three plays and a punt. Mizzou managed a first down on its third series with Ish Witter’s 17-yard run, but two plays later, defensive end Torrey Dale tipped Drew Lock’s pass at the line of scrimmage and linebacker Gerri Green made a diving interception to spoil the drive, Mizzou’s 43rd consecutive series without a touchdown.
By then, the Tigers were already in a hole. Mississippi State didn’t need long to grab a 7-0 lead, four plays in all, finished by a 36-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Fred Ross on a pass down the seam over linebacker Michael Scherer trailing in coverage. MSU’s seven points would have been enough to beat the Tigers in each of their three previous games.
A Mississippi State turnover led to Mizzou’s best field position of the night and the Tigers responded with points. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers stripped running back Brandon Holloway near midfield with defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. getting the recovery.
The Tigers showed some rare creativity on its next drive. First, Lock’s screen pass to running back Tyler Hunt picked up 35 yards down to the 8-yard line. Mizzou’s coaches had been reluctant to play speedy backup quarterback Marvin Zanders all season, but they gave him a shot on the next play, a read-option running play. Zanders handed the ball to Hunt for no gain with Lock split wide. The Tigers sputtered from there and settled for Andrew Baggett’s 31-yard field goal.
Welcome to rain-soaked Memorial Stadium, where Missouri and No. 24 Mississippi State are set to kick off at 8 p.m. on SEC Network. The rain has subsided for now after a couple hours of showers.
Check here for any pregame news and quarterly updates throughout the game.
Starting defensive tackle Rickey Hatley will not play tonight. He watched pregame drills in street clothes. It's unclear what kind of injury he has. With Hatley out, freshman Terry Beckner Jr. will most likely rejoin the starting lineup alongside Josh Augusta.