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Missouri Football Notebook: Offense and special team looking to bounce back

Mizzou running back Nathaniel Peat was one of the Tigers' best offensive players in week four when he recorded the second 100-yard rushing game of his career. Peat had 20 carries for 110 yards and his final carry of the day turned out to be his best and worst one.

On the second play of Mizzou's only offensive overtime possession, Peat took a handoff to the left and broke it for 20 yards (the longest rush by any player on either team) and was tiptoeing the sideline as he stretched his right arm out and fumbled the ball. The ball went into the end zone and Auburn recovered it for a touchback and secured a 17-14 win to move to 3-1 while Missouri dropped to 2-2.

Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz said that he should and will take responsibility for the loss, but that players are constantly reminded about ball security.

"I personally don't blame any one player on our football team for Saturday's performance. I blame myself. And at the end of the day, it was my job to get us one more play to win that game," Drinkwitz said. "We have a point of emphasis within our program. We actually do a presentation on it. And we will continue to do a presentation on it to never extend the ball at the goal line except on fourth down."

Peat, who has rushed the ball 47 times for 258 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown, still had a good day sans the fumble, and Drinkwitz said that if anything the team will continue to call Peat's number.

"I've talked to him every day since then, and we're going to give him the ball again. That's what we're going to do," Drinkwitz said. "There's really no more to say about it. He made his mistake. ... To err is human."

Despite sharing snaps predominantly with Cody Schrader in the backfield, Peat is the team leader in carries, yards per carry, total rushing yards and yards per game. He and the Tigers will have to put the gaffes from week four behind them as they host No. 1 Georgia (4-0).

Georgia enters week five with the nation's 11th best defense limiting opponents to 257 yards per game and the 14th best run defense, allowing just 86 rushing yards per game.

Kicking struggles and standouts

Before Peat's fumble in overtime, Mizzou kicker Harrison Mevis had a chance to seal the win with three seconds left in regulation but shanked a 26-yard field goal attempt to the right as time expired. Mevis, who was named an All-SEC first-team selection in 2021 after converting 20 of 22 field goals, was 92 of 92 for his career on kicks 29 yards or shorter (82 of 82 on extra points 10 of 10 on field goals).

Mevis had also missed a 52-yard and 39-yard field goal versus Abilene Christian which marked the first time in his career that he missed multiple field goal attempts in a game. Nonetheless, Drinkwitz doesn't seem to be too worried about Mevis going forward.

“He gets one shot at it,” Drinkwitz said. “I’ve stood over many three-foot putts and yanked it, so I have 100% confidence in Harrison Mevis.

“We move on we get back on the horse. I mean, kickers are people too.”

Mevis said he simply shanked the kick but he isn't worried about his kicking woes and is still confident in what he can do.

"I just pushed it. I didn't hit a clean ball and I looked up and I didn't go through it," Mevis said. "I'm as confident as ever. I hit really well.

"It's just next kick mentality."

He also doesn't think there's much of an issue with his mechanics and is looking forward to his next opportunity to bounce back.

"Every kicker is going to miss at some point in their career and it's about how you come back and respond," Mevis said. "I've done nothing different (in practice) and I'll respond on Saturday."

Mevis is 5 of 8 on field goals (62.5%) this season.

The other starting kicker on the team, punter Jack Stonehouse, seemed to have a much better day on Saturday. He punted the ball eight times a 48 yard average with three of the punts going over 50 yards (a long of 68) and four landing inside Auburn’s 20-yard line in his first start of the season. Considering Stonehouse's first start was on the road versus a conference foe in front of more than 80,000 people, he said he wasn't too nervous and that he got better as the game went along.

There was a stretch during the game where Mizzou punted on eight of nine possessions, including six punts in a row.

"I personally think that the more that I went out there at Auburn for me 一 not good for the team一 but for me, it was better because I for more comfortable," Stonehouse said. "Every time I went out there I was more relaxed, more in tune."

Drinkwitz was impressed and has been impressed with Stonehouse since he took over punting duties midway through the week three game versus Abilene Christian.

“He was very disappointed that he wasn't named the starter coming out of fall camp but didn't hide his head, didn't hang his head he just kept working,” Drinkwitz said. “He got his opportunity. And he's been really good.”

Stonehouse said that his goal going forward is to maintain punting average north of 45 yards. Currently, he has punted 10 times this season and leads the Southeastern conference in yards per punt at 48.4.

Changes along the offensive line

After week three's win over Abilene Christian, Drinkwitz said that the Tigers would be re-evaluating who the five best offensive linemen are after they accounted for six penalties (five holds and a false start). Right guard Connor Wood, who had two holding penalties and now leads the team with five on the season, was replaced by Mitchell Walters.

Walters more than tripled the number of snaps he's played in weeks one through three (21) with 65 snaps against Auburn. He didn't get called for any penalties, and PFF College gave him a total offensive grade of 61.8 and a pass-blocking grade of 77.4, his best pass-blocking grade of the season.

"I was a little nervous. After I got out there the nerves just started going away and I started playing," Walters said. "I've been playing football for 10 years now, and it's just basic football rules."

Drinkwitz said that the opportunity for playing time was there for Walters and that he the 6-foot-8, 331-pounder has a chance to solidify his role in the lineup.

"It just felt like he had earned his opportunity to get a chance to play and use his size," Drinkwitz said. ."But now, with Zeke's (Powell) injury and Woody sliding over to the right tackle with Armand (Membou). Mitch is going to have an opportunity to really establish himself as that guard."

Powell, who has started at right tackle all season in place of Hyrin White, got injured in the first quarter on a tackle attempt after an interception against Auburn. Drinkwitz said Powell is out for the season and doesn't have any remaining eligibility, so he won't play for the program again going forward. Wood took over at right tackle for Powell after that and is listed as the starter at the spot versus Georgia.

"Connor actually played quite a bit of tackle for us when you go back to last year and Hyrin (White) getting injured in the Georgia game," Drinkwitz said. "In the next two games, which I believe were the South Carolina and Florida games, where he played both those games at tackle and actually played tackle at his previous school (Montana State). So, it's a position he's familiar with, he's really comfortable with."

Missouri has to start fast offensively and defensively

When Georgia comes to town Missouri needs to get off to a fast start, something it's failed to do all season. Mizzou scored a field goal against Kansas State on its first drive in week two, but that was the only time it scored points on an opening drive. The Tigers haven't scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter in any game this season. The lone first-quarter touchdown the Tigers have had came off of a punt returned for a touchdown by Luther Burden III in week three.

"We preach all week to start fast and we did not,." Drinkwitz said. "We did the exact opposite of that. But our team ran to the fire."

While the team has shown a propensity for bouncing back from turnovers or sloppy starts it may not be as easy versus the No. 1 team in the nation.

Mizzou's defense may be able to keep them in the game, but can its offense help them out?

Missouri has the SEC's 10th best offense (averaging 394.75 yards per game) and the 11th best scoring offense (averaging 28 points per game).

Georgia is second in the SEC in total offense at 531.5 yards per game (fourth-best in the FBS) and third in the SEC in scoring offense with 42.25 points per game (17th-best in the FBS).

Defensively, the Tigers have gotten better week by week with the exception of the week two performance versus Kansas State. But the defense has had its fair share of slow starts, too. The Tigers allowed Kansas State and Auburn to score touchdowns on back-to-back drives to start those games.

Even though the second touchdown in both games came on a short field resulting from an interception, defensive coordinator Blake Baker said the key to getting off to better starts has to be tackling.

"It has been tackling," Baker said. ."For whatever reason, and that's something we've looked at hard this week our opening drive tackling has not been good."

Mizzou's tackling has gotten steadily worse through four games. Mizzou missed five tackles in each of its first two games, ten against Abilene Christian and 17 last weekend against Auburn.


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