LEXINGTON, Ky.— Drop, drop, drop. That was the sound of the rain falling in Lexington on Saturday night.
It is also the sound of a recurring problem for the Missouri offense.
In a rain-soaked slog, Missouri’s offense put up its second straight dud, losing to Kentucky 29-7.
“It was a little wet, made it difficult to catch the ball,” running back Tyler Badie said after the game.
That is a bit of an understatement. The rain was continuous and unrelenting in a game in which offense came at a premium for Missouri.
The Tigers were kept off the scoreboard in the first half, but a drive in the second quarter showed a little bit of promise. Until the drops started.
Down 12 with just over six minutes left in the second quarter, quarterback Kelly Bryant completed a quick pass to running back Dawson Downing for four yards. On the next play, he did the same to receiver Jonathan Nance for eight and a first down. Then Bryant went to Nance again, but this time the redshirt senior dropped it. That drop was immediately followed by another, this one by Kam Scott.
“We just have to catch the ball, even in the rain,” Nance said. “The rain was a big factor; It was pouring down.”
Missouri head coach Barry Odom, though, was reluctant to assign blame to the torrential rain.
“I would like to not make an excuse for that,” Odom said. “The other side, they had to play in it, too.”
Kentucky seemingly handled the poor weather better, gaining 360 yards of offense compared to Missouri’s 289. But the Wildcats also felt the impact of the rain.
“I’ve never been part of anything like it,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said.
Wildcats center Drake Jackson said he had to change his gloves three times during the game.
Kentucky gained 297 yards on the ground, and did not have to rely on the passing game as much as Missouri did.
Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was only targeted once, and he bobbled and eventually dropped a pass on a third-down play in the first quarter.
“You can use an excuse and blame it on the weather, but the bottom line is as receivers, we’ve got to catch the ball regardless of any factors,” Okwuegbunam said.
The drops were not the only problem for the Tigers. Far from it. But they were one of the more glaring issues for an offense that failed to do much on Saturday.
After running back Tyler Badie cut into Kentucky’s 22-0 lead with a 74-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter, Missouri’s offense went back to playing like it did in the first half, only now with another problem: No Kelly Bryant, who left because of a hamstring injury.
Backup Taylor Powell took over, but his receivers did little to help him. After getting all the way down to the Kentucky 17, Missouri faced a fourth-and-2. Powell threw a low, but catchable, ball to Dominic Gicinto, who got a hand on it but couldn’t come up with it.
“It obviously wasn’t ideal conditions for throwing a football,” Powell said. “It was like a monsoon.”
And it wasn’t only the receivers who had trouble holding on to the ball on this wet night. Bryant fumbled twice, the second setting up Kentucky in the red zone right before the end of the first half. The Wildcats scored a touchdown soon after. In the fourth quarter, Larry Rountree III fumbled on a fourth-down attempt. Kentucky also lost two fumbles, but Missouri was unable to capitalize.
The slipshod performance can’t be completely blamed on the weather, but as the drops and fumbles piled up, Kentucky’s lead got larger.
“We’ve got to be mentally tough enough to overcome things you don’t control,” Odom said.