A little over six minutes remained in the fourth quarter in a back-and-forth affair between Missouri and Boston College Saturday afternoon. The Tigers had just scored a touchdown to regain the lead, 31-27. On the road in front of a spirited crowd, the game was now in the hands of the defense.
Mizzou needed to find a way to get a stop — even limiting the Eagles to a field goal would do.
On third and 3 at the 5-yard line, with 29 seconds left after driving down the field, quarterback Dennis Grosel handed the ball off to Travis Levy. The running back found a hole up the middle and charged forward. Mizzou cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. outstretched his arms as Levy inched toward the end zone but couldn’t bring him down. Safety Jaylon Carlies then tried to do the same, but Levy had all the momentum as he bullied his way into the end zone for the touchdown.
Whether it was running out the clock and methodically driving down the field or stringing together several explosive plays in quick succession, Boston College had its way with the Tigers’ defense throughout the 41-34 Missouri loss.
Though the game later ended in overtime on an interception thrown by quarterback Connor Bazelak, it wouldn’t have gotten to that point had the defense come up with a stop on that fourth-quarter drive. The defense played at its opponent’s pace, missed crucial tackles and gaps and couldn’t get stops when needed most.
“We have who we have, and we have to adjust our scheme to make it match,” Mizzou coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We can’t repeatedly give up 275 yards (on the ground) and be successful.”
Boston College finished with 450 yards of offense, 275 of which were on the ground. The Missouri defense also allowed BC to convert 10 of its 16 attempts on third down and each of its two chances on fourth down.
After coming up with an interception on the opening drive, the Tigers completely fell apart on Boston College’s second drive of the game, allowing the Eagles to storm down the field for 98 yards and a touchdown in just four plays spanning a little over two minutes.
Backed up at the 6-yard line on third and 6, BC quarterback Dennis Grosel found wide receiver Zay Flowers, who easily dodged a tackle and gained extra yardage for 27 yards on the play. On the next snap, Mizzou defenders couldn’t contain running back Pat Garwo, missing tackle after tackle as he went 67 yards to the end zone, tying the game at 14-14.
“It’s just some gaps that we weren’t in and missed tackles on that long run for a touchdown,” Drinkwitz said. “We were bringing the corner off the edge and he didn’t get there in time, missed a tackle. And then when you miss your first tackle, everybody else is chasing without leverage.”
After scoring to regain the lead at 14-7, Mizzou once again allowed BC to have its way down the field. The Eagles opened the drive with consecutive gains of 13 yards, 17 yards, nine yards and 18 yards, advancing within 18 yards of the end zone in the blink of an eye. A few plays later, the defense left wide receiver Jaden Williams wide open in the left corner of the end zone, allowing him to easily reel in a seven yard pass and tie the game.
Though the defense forced a three and out on the next BC drive, a 38 yard pass from Grosel to CJ Lewis on the following one set up a field goal to tie it at 17 right before the end of the first half.
The Eagles switched things up on offense come the second half, eating up the clock as they progressed down the field instead of relying on explosive plays. Missouri’s woes in attempting to stop the run continued and BC took advantage, rushing for 41 of its 75 yards on the first drive of the third quarter to take a 24-17 lead.
After a Bazelak interception on the ensuing drive, BC tested the Tigers’ run defense some more. Mizzou allowed 50 yards on the ground in 16 plays across 7:02 before getting a stop on third and 6. Still, the Eagles scored a 31-yard field goal to extend their lead to 27-17 over the Tigers with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Really it just comes almost to a mental grind of where we know what they’re doing and they know what we’re doing and it’s gonna come down to a battle of the difference of a yard or two,” Mizzou linebacker Blaze Alldredge said of the long BC drives. “It’s a challenge for sure.”
With the Tigers down 10 points, the game could have been over at that point, especially on the road. But the Mizzou offense took that deficit and turned it into a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Tigers needed one more stop to clinch the victory late, but the defense came up short, as it had all afternoon.
“We’ll figure it out, that’s what we gotta do,” Drinkwitz said. “We got to go to work and it’s more about us than it is about anybody else right now.”