Perhaps it was fitting that Kenny Loggins’ sing-along hit from the 1986 film “Top Gun” rang out over the loudspeakers as Mizzou ran onto the field on Saturday.
A crowd of over 57,000 fans were there to greet them, but the team eventually fell to the Florida Gators 23-6 inside a sun-drenched Memorial Stadium.
The much-maligned Mizzou offense did little to quiet their critics on Saturday as the Tigers managed just over 250 yards against the 10th ranked Gators, a trend that has contributed greatly to the tailspin the program has been in for the past month.
What a difference a month makes
October 12th, 2019 likely seems like eons ago for Mizzou faithful. It’s hard to imagine, but on that date the team had just won its fifth game in a row (a 38-27 drubbing of Ole Miss) and would enter the top-25 a day later. Six days later, the team suffered its second inexplicable loss of the season at the hands of hapless Vanderbilt, followed by a complete no-show loss at Kentucky. The losses to Georgia and Florida are forgivable, in a sense, despite the offensive ineptitude, the defense came to play on both occasions which kept each game from being a total embarrassment.
The state of the Mizzou football program moving forward
This season brought about a great deal of fan fervor and excitement. Barry Odom had lured Kelly Bryant away from a plethora of other interested suitors and he returned a capable duo of running backs and an experienced offensive line. The schedule set up as well as it possibly could in the SEC and all that excitement was smashed into smithereens on August 31st when the season started with a disastrous loss to Wyoming. For many, the season was over at that point in time but Odom again circled the wagons with five straight wins.
Fast forward to today and the sentiment seems to be that Odom may not be the guy to lead Mizzou football going forward. That will be a decision Jim Sterk will have to make beginning in just a few weeks as the team still has Tennessee and Arkansas left on the schedule. Winning the final two would likely put a band-aid on the season, enough to skate by but there would be little to no fan excitement heading in to 2020.
Mizzou football seems to be living in a complete abyss presently, a program barely keeping its head above water. Not yet drowning to the depths of an Arkansas or Rutgers but existing merely to exist.
Perhaps there is a ceiling for the program in the SEC and maybe seven or eight win seasons should be celebrated as the norm, but this fanbase has seen greater days in the not-so-distant past. It seems unfathomable that this program won back-to-back SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014 and fans have had little to cheer about since then as stagnation and apathy have slowly set in over the past five years.
What happens next will depend on a combination of on-field performances, financials and, quite frankly, the general sentiment that exists in the mind of A.D. Jim Sterk who must evaluate the coaching staff as a whole after this disappointing season. Do you try to force a coaching change despite a shaky financial situation just to infuse energy into the fanbase or attempt to stay the course with a coach that has continued to make it difficult for fans to actively engage in the program?