NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was a loss almost nobody expected for Missouri.
Not even some diehard Vanderbilt fans imagined the Tigers would leave the Music City with their second loss of the season.
The game against the Commodores on Saturday was supposed to be a testament to how much MU has grown in 49 unblemished days since its season-opening loss at Wyoming.
Instead, the checks and balances of college football reared their ugly head in a 21-14 defeat.
VIDEO: Here’s some of my postgame interviews with Missouri’s Kelly Bryant, Albert Okwuegbunam and Martez Manuel. pic.twitter.com/Q0ugJgfdxG— Eric Blum (@ByEricBlum) October 20, 2019
The win salvages Vanderbilt’s season to this point and may have saved its head coach, Derek Mason, from being fired.
“I feel like we could’ve done more,” Missouri defensive back DeMarkus Acy said. “Credit to Vanderbilt. They had a real good, hard game, had a great game plan against us, made plays when it was needed. So credit to them. Still got a lot of work to do.”
A few significant setbacks exposed themselves for Missouri (5-2) inside Vanderbilt Stadium.
Missouri had its first scoreless first quarter of the season. It was the Tigers' first time not putting up points in the first 15 minutes since against Kentucky last October. The Tigers' streak of 11 straight games scoring 30 points or more is also done. Saturday was also Missouri head coach Barry Odom’s first loss to Vanderbilt as a head coach.
Perhaps the most damaging struggle for the Tigers was setting season highs in penalties (12) and penalty yardage (120).
“It’s really difficult to overcome,” Acy said. “Coach always tells us to play clean football, and that’s not what we did today.”
Missouri appears to still be mostly healthy heading into next Saturday’s matchup against Kentucky in Lexington, though safety Tyree Gillespie was ejected in the third quarter for targeting.
Surprise Vanderbilt starting quarterback Mo Hasan did not return to the game after taking the hit from Gillespie.
Because of the second-half ejection, Gillespie will miss the first half of next week's game against the Wildcats.
“I just told him to keep his head up, we got your back,” Acy said he told Gillespie in the locker room.
Manuel steps up
Columbia native Martez Manuel took over Gillespie’s safety position in the second half.
The true freshman previously had played on special teams when Missouri held large leads, but he was truly thrown into the fire for the first time against Vanderbilt.
The Rock Bridge graduate finished the game with one tackle. He drew the praise of his teammates.
“Martez stepped up and did what we needed to do,” Acy said of Manuel. “I always talk to him about, ‘You’re halfway through the season, so there’s no more true freshman. Nothing like that.’ I feel like he came in at a pivotal time and made some good contributions.”
Manuel said he was ready when his name was called in the third quarter.
“A bump in the road, adversity, it happens to every team,” Manuel said about the loss. “It’s college football — that’s what makes it so great. Any team can lose any week, you have to bring it every week.
“I’m ready going into next week and just take on every challenge day by day.”