By: Nate Smith
The Missouri Tigers suffered their fourth straight loss on Saturday when they fell to the 11th ranked Florida Gators. The 23-6 defeat dropped the Tigers to 2-4 in SEC play and 5-5 overall on the year. The Tigers’ performance left something to be desired, as fans voiced their frustration on social media following the game.
With only two games remaining on the season, and the NCAA yet to make a ruling on the bowl ban, it’s fair to wonder what the team’s goals are as they round out the year. Speaking after the Florida game, many of the Missouri players referenced the upcoming senior night game against Tennessee. Quarterback Kelly Bryant said, “we’ve gotta finish (the season) on the right note, at home for the seniors.” Bryant and the rest of the Missouri offense struggled to get going on Saturday, as they were unable to find the end zone. A pair of Tucker McCann field goals provided the only points on the afternoon for the Tigers.
Cornerback Jarvis Ware doubled down on Bryant’s comments, saying “our plan is to send the seniors out the right way.” Ware, a Florida native, was very vocal on-field following the loss to the Gators, drawing some criticism for how he handled himself. Despite that, Ware remained very humble and transparent in his post-game media availability. “We’ve all got to keep our heads up…everybody takes losses but what really matters is how you bounce back from a loss. If everybody keeps their heads up, (and we keep putting the work in) and keep grinding…we will come out successful.”
Center Trystan Colon-Castillo shared some insight from the coaches’ post-game locker room message. “Coach Odom told us all it’s on them, it’s on the coaches, which as players, we didn’t think (that).” Colon-Castillo also brought up senior punt returner Richaud Floyd, who addressed the team with a motivational message of his own, that was also centered around sending the seniors out on the proverbial right note.
Bolton and the Tigers will look to rebound next weekend against Tennessee, who will also enter the contest with a .500 record. Mizzou opened as four-point favorites before the line adjusted to -5.5 in favor of the Tigers. A win against the rival Volunteers wouldn’t solve all of Missouri’s problems, but it would be a step in the right direction for a talented, yet inconsistent team in desperate need of a confidence boost. The Tigers and Volunteers will kick-off from Faurot Field on Saturday at 6:30 PM. Mizzou fans are understandably discouraged by the turn the season has taken, but they can be at least somewhat encouraged by the positive strides that the defensive unit has continued to make. Star linebacker Nick Bolton has stepped up to help ease the burden caused by the injury to team leader Cale Garrett. Talking about his near pick-six against Florida that barely slipped out of his hands, Bolton said “I’ve gotta make that play…I consider myself a playmaker.” Had Bolton secured the interception and returned it for a touchdown, it would’ve cut the Gator lead to 13-10 with just over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. Bolton’s playmaking has stood out this season, as the Tigers’ linebacker already has one pick-six on his resume. While he wasn’t able to repeat the feat against Florida, Bolton’s attitude, on-field play, and leadership all speak volumes for a Missouri team going through a tumultuous season.