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Vanderbilt Can’t Overcome Slow Start in 26-17 Loss to Missouri

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Costly mistakes and questionable calls were too much for an ineffective Commodore team to overcome.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt never led in Columbia, and that slow start led to a 26-17 loss to the Missouri Tigers on Saturday.

The Commodores fell behind 19-0 in the second quarter and struggled to maintain any kind of offensive rhythm against an explosive but uneven Tiger team. Vanderbilt kicked off the second half with a touchdown, then ended their next five drives with punts before turning the ball over on downs with its final possession. As a result, Vandy will have to win the rest of its games this season to finish 2016 at .500 and qualify for a bowl game the traditional way.

Drew Lock threw for 294 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win for Mizzou. Darrius Sims took a bigger role in the offense thanks to the nagging ankle injury that’s slowed Ralph Webb the past two weeks. Sims took seven carries and finished with 86 yards in a game where he arguably should have been used more.

Missouri took advantage of Vanderbilt’s mistakes to run out to an early 19-0 lead. An early Vandy three-and-out, coupled with a weak line-drive Sam Loy punt, gave the Tigers a short field at the VU 35. Drew Lock completed three straight passes before Damarea Crockett dove into the end zone from four yards out to give the home team the lead.

Vandy drove to the Mizzou 28 on its ensuing drive, but its drive ended when Shurmur bounced a pass off Jared Pinkney’s helmet and into Joey Birkett’s hands.

The two teams exchanged punts before Shurmur made his second mistake of the day. A third-down slant to an outmatched Trent Sherfield was intercepted by Aarion Penton for a touchdown that made the score 13-0.

Vanderbilt attempted to counterpunch, but found its offense stalling out in Missouri territory once more. The Commodores faced 4th-and-2 at the MU 18 before a direct snap to Khari Blasingame showed why the former linebacker is now a tailback, not a quarterback. His attempt to find an open Bailey McElwain needed two bounces to get to its intended target.

One play later, Drew Lock hit a streaking J’Mon Moore down the sideline to push his team’s lead to 19-0 after a second missed extra point from Tucker McCann.

The Commodoes got on the board midway through the second quarter thanks to a four-yard Blasingame run.

Tommy Openshaw’s 24-yard field goal helped close out the half with Vanderbilt trailing 19-10.

The ‘Dores rode that momentum through the first drive of the third quarter. Shurmur dialed up his accuracy to push his offense 75 yards down the field before Ralph Webb spilled into the end zone to make this a one-possession game. Missouri responded with a comedy of errors.

The Tigers rode Damarea Crockett to the Vandy four-yard line before a clutch LaDarius Wiley pass breakup forced McCann to attempt a 21-yard field goal. He pushed the kick right, allowing the ‘Dores to escape the possession without giving up any points.

One drive later, Mizzou pushed its way down the Vanderbilt half-yard line, but Lock’s first-and-goal fumble ensured the Tigers would finish another red zone trip empty handed. Fortunately for Missouri, Vanderbilt couldn’t capitalize on these opportunities, preserving the home team’s 19-17 lead through the end of the third quarter.

They extended that lead when Lock capped off an 85-yard drive on a controversial touchdown pass to Moore. Moore appeared to shove cornerback Tre Herndon on his break to the sideline, but officials deemed the play defensive pass interference for reasons unclear to most sighted individuals and various intelligent animals.

Vanderbilt went three-and-out on their ensuing drive, giving the Tigers an opportunity to put this game away with a long long. Mizzou made it all the way to the VU 27 before Zach Cunningham reminded us all why he’s a likely All-American with this monster fourth-and-1 stop.

The ‘Dores couldn’t capitalize. Their next possession went -7 yards before ending with a punt. Their final effort went two yards in the wrong direction before turning the ball over on downs. In all, a shoddy offensive line allowed Shurmur to be sacked six times.

Vanderbilt fell to 4-6 (1-5 in the SEC) with the loss. Missouri improved to 3-7 (1-5). The Commodores will return to Nashville to host Ole Miss next Saturday.