NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Missouri coach Barry Odom is going to see yellow flags in his sleep. That’s assuming he’ll get any sleep after Saturday’s debacle at Vanderbilt.
The Tigers committed a season-high 12 penalties for 120 yards in their 21-14 loss, including five 15-yarders for personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct. A week earlier, against Mississippi, Mizzou seemed to get a handle on its penalty problem, drawing just two flags in a victory. The Tigers relapsed in Nashville.
“We got to take a hard, long look at that,” Odom said. “And obviously, I know there were a number of them that I recall off the top of my head that were in crucial moments, but also we’ve got a decision to make on how we’re going to respond.”
The Tigers were flagged six times on offense for 50 yards, including an intentional grounding penalty on quarterback Kelly Bryant and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on tight end Albert Okwuegbunam for taunting a Vandy defender after catching a touchdown pass. Also on offense, the Tigers had two false starts, a holding penalty and one for illegal hands to the face.
On defense, Jordan Elliott jumped offsides twice on Vandy’s final drive. The Tigers also had a pass interference penalty, an unsportsmanlike conduct on defensive lineman Markell Utsey and a targeting foul on safety Tyree Gillespie. Adam Sparks was flagged for a horse-collar tackle on the punt team.
Utsey’s foul helped set up Vandy’s go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to be smart,” Odom said. “One guy said something, (Utsey) said something back. They flagged (Utsey). They usually get the second guy. That’s the way it works. We’ve talked about that over and over and over. You have to be in the moment and control your emotions. We didn’t do that.”
“That’s probably the most disappointing part of this game,” Okwuegbunam said, “because that’s something we can control, how many penalties we have. We have to learn from those mistakes.”
Late in the third quarter, the Tigers knocked starting quarterback Mo Hasan out of the game, but it came with a cost. As the Vandy QB went into his slide, Gillespie nailed him in the head with the crown of his helmet, drawing a targeting penalty. Gillespie was ejected and as a result will miss the first half of next week’s game at Kentucky. Hasan was wobbly getting up and headed to the sideline for the rest of the game.
Odom agreed with the penalty.
“It was targeting. (Hasan) had left his feet,” Odom said. “The quarterback went into a slide. Gillespie had already gone into the position of trying to make a tackle, and he lowered his head at the last minute and it appeared to me just like they called it.”
With Gillespie out of the game, freshman Martez Manuel took over his spot in the secondary and likely will start next weekend’s game.
After missing a couple of extra points last week, Tucker McCann had another rough day kicking the ball, missing field-goal attempts of 48 and 50 yards, both well within his range. On a day when scores came sparingly, both misses were pivotal, for points and momentum.
“I didn’t get the chance to visit with him to kind of see what he thought on (the field goals),” Odom said. “Those two are momentum plays that we missed out on.”
McCann had his busiest day as MU’s punter, with seven kicks, three inside the Vandy 20-yard line, including a 58-yard boomer in the first quarter.
Vandy pulls a surprise
After six rough starts, Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason pulled the plug on quarterback Riley Neal and turned to Hasan, his third-stringer and a walk-on who began his career at Syracuse and came to Vandy via junior college. He competed seven of 11 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game on Gillespie’s hit. He added 34 yards rushing.
Hasan was a surprise starter, but Mason said he decided last Sunday to make the change.
“Coming off that (loss to Nevada-Las Vegas), we needed something different,” Mason said. “You continue to do what you’ve always done, you always have what you always got. It put a little pressure on (Neal), but at the end of the day, I knew (Hasan) was going to be the dude. That’s what we went with, and it worked.”