COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton was surrounded by reporters after a loss at No. 1 Alabama last week, and he talked with disappointment and frustration about how he had expected to beat a team his own coach called “as good as I’ve ever seen.”
Across the room sat quarterback Drew Lock, who had no interest in discussing expectations.
“I’m done with the ‘expectation’ word,” Lock said. “We know we could have played better these last three losses.”
Lock entered the 2018 campaign as a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate. He had reliable targets in deep threat Emanuel Hall and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, and the support of a loaded backfield headed by Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III.
Midway through the season, the Tigers are 3-3 and their losing skid includes all three SEC games so far. While there is little shame in losses to then-No. 2 Georgia and the Crimson Tide, a sloppy performance against South Carolina and self-inflicted errors the last three games have created cause for concern.
“It just hurts a little more this year,” Lock said.
Missouri badly needs a win in its Homecoming game Saturday against Memphis (4-3, 1-3 American). Tigers coach Barry Odom was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Memphis from 2012-14, and knows what his old team brings to the table. The fact the Tigers took No. 10 Central Florida to the wire in a 31-30 loss last week only drives home his point.
“We’ve got a tremendous challenge in a very, very, very good Memphis team,” Odom said. “It appears to me that they thrive on opportunities coming into a place like this to play a game.”
The first order of business might well be slowing down the nation’s leading rusher in Darrell Henderson. The second? Making sure turnover and penalty issues are fixed.
Against Alabama, Lock threw two interceptions, fumbled deep in his own territory and pump-faked himself into a safety. And while his offensive linemen don’t want the blame placed on their leader, Lock has admitted to having problems with waiting too long to release the ball.
“I’ve just got to learn when to burn it,” Lock said. “I’ve got to learn when to not try to make a play.”
Lock has been without Hall and fellow wide receiver Nate Brown since the Georgia loss. The two have been sidelined with groin injuries, and Hall is mourning the death of his father. Hall was ruled out of Saturday’s game and Odom said Brown is “moving in the right direction.”
The Tigers, favored by 9 1/2 points, are expected to get back on track against Memphis. There is another half of the SEC slate coming up and Missouri could use some positive momentum for the first time in weeks.
“We have so much more football left, and it’s still all up for grabs,” Missouri offensive lineman Paul Adams said. “We will finish the way we want to finish.”