CHESTNUT Hill, Mass. — Missouri wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. On the road in front of a juiced Boston College crowd, in a game that already had seven lead changes, the Tigers decided if they scored in overtime, they’d go for the kill shot.
“We had to score a touchdown,” quarterback Connor Bazelak later said. “We were going to go for 2, too.”
Instead, Mizzou never got the chance.
His team down by seven points, Bazelak uncorked a pass for Keke Chism in the end zone on MU’s first play of overtime. But Boston College’s Brandon Sebastian got there first and snared an interception for a 41-34 victory. Like their running backs did all day, BC students faced zero resistance as they charged the field at Alumni Stadium, an appropriate crescendo for a game that went absolutely bonkers in the final minutes.
Just minutes earlier Bazelak had driven the Tigers (2-2) into Harrison Mevis’ field-goal range with three completions in the final seconds of regulation. Mevis handled his end of the bargain, scooting a 56-yarder just over the crossbar to send the game to overtime and silence a stunned BC crowd of 44,500.
But at some point, for Mizzou to escape this cozy Boston neighborhood with a victory, the defense would have to contribute. And like so many times through the season’s first month, the Tigers couldn’t answer the call. BC (4-0) scored first in the extra session, on Dennis Grosel’s TD pass to Zay Flowers — a play that evaporated any momentum the Tigers had created with Mevis’ clutch kick minutes earlier.
By game’s end, Boston College became the latest team to knife through Mizzou’s defense like a warm slice of Boston cream pie. Without their starting quarterback, the Eagles leaned on their rugged running game (275 yards on 49 attempts) and made just enough plays through the air, mostly on play-action passes that caught Mizzou defenders a step slow.
“As a defense, when the offense and the kicker bail you out like that you’re really fired up and you’re ready to go. You want it bad,” Mizzou linebacker Blaze Alldredge said. “It’s good that our team wanted it bad. That’s a good sign. But we’ve got some young players and you can’t get emotional and want it so bad that you slip up on your assignment, which is kind of what happened on a couple of those play-actions. We got too emotional about making a big play and stopping the run. And then somebody comes free on the play-action.”
The Tigers made a couple critical stops on third down to keep their rally alive in the second half but rarely controlled the line of scrimmage, struggled to make tackles in space and came up with only one takeaway. Four games into the season the same issues haunt this defense, prompting questions of whether the root of the problem is new coordinator Steve Wilks’ scheme or the Tigers’ shortage of talent.
Eli Drinkwitz, as sullen as he’s been after a loss in two years at Mizzou, didn’t have the answer.
“I’m not sure,” said Drinkwitz, who’s back to .500 as Missouri’s coach (7-7) but lost for the first time when the Tigers were favored, albeit by just 1½ points at kickoff. “We have who we have and we have to adjust our scheme to take advantage. But we can’t repeatedly give up 275 (rushing) yards and be successful. Next week (against Tennessee) is going to present a whole other challenge. … But that’s the job. We’ll figure it out.”
This one wasn’t all on the defense. With a press box full of NFL scouts on hand to check out Boston College’s stable of offensive linemen, Saturday’s game was a chance for Bazelak to turn heads, too. He completed 30 of 41 passes for 303 yards and an early TD, but he wanted two costly throws back. Down a touchdown when he first touched the ball in the second half, Bazelak waited too long to snap off a deep pass for Barrett Banister — and threw it right to nickel back Josh DeBerry.
“We were down, so I was just trying to push the ball down the field,” he said. “Bad decision. I’ll learn from it.”
Boston College took more than seven minutes off the clock en route to its next score, a 31-yard field goal for a 10-point lead. That might have seemed insurmountable the way BC had dictated the game for long stretches, but Bazelak guided the Tigers back on MU’s next series, completing a huge 40-yard pass to Tauskie Dove to pierce the red zone. From the goal line, newly promoted short-yardage back Michael Cox thundered into the end zone, trimming BC’s lead to 27-24.
Mizzou’s defense picked the perfect time for its second three-and-out series, handing the ball back to Bazelak with more than 11 minutes to play. This time, it was running back Tyler Badie who made all the clutch plays, including a one-handed snag on third and 9 that he turned into a 14-yard gain deep inside BC territory. Three plays later he slid through the Eagles for an 8-yard go-ahead TD run with 6:18 left.
That was more than enough time for BC to answer — and it did with Travis Levy’s 5-yard TD with 25 seconds left, coming after a game of dueling timeouts between Drinkwitz and BC’s Jeff Hafley. Drinkwitz left one in his pocket in case the Tigers were in position for a field goal.
That part of the plan worked to perfection as Bazelek set up Mevis for the tying boot. The Tigers bungled the rest, dropping a second one-score game on the road in a game they believed they should have won.
“We’ve got a lot of games left. We’ve got to move on,” Bazelak said. “... We’ve got to put our big boots on and figure it out.”