The starting running backs didn’t play. The quarterback didn’t play much. But Missouri still saw positive signs on offense from its spring game, and coach Barry Odom said he “felt pretty good” about where the Tigers stand after Missouri’s Black and Gold Game on Saturday.
In a straight offense-against-defense format, the Gold team (the offense) won 24-0. Wide receiver Emanuel Hall led with two touchdown receptions, catching three passes for 87 yards.
“There were times, offensively, when we got started, we looked and did what we wanted to do,” Odom said. “Didn’t start very well defensively, but also I know where we’re at defensively and I know where we’re at offensively.”
Quarterback Drew Lock played only a small portion of the action; he was 8-of-14 for 63 yards. “I wasn’t proud of my play, but I think we all looked OK,” Lock said.
The real contest came among the reserves, where the Tigers need a backup for Lock after the transfer of former second-stringer Marvin Zanders.
Sophomore Jack Lowary appeared to pull ahead in that race, going 7-of-11 for 113 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Redshirt freshman Micah Wilson was 7-of-15 for 68 yards and one pick.
“We’ll be training those guys and if they can get in a million reps from now till when we get started in August, I expect them to do well,” Odom said.
Top two running backs Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter did not play because of injuries that Odom said were minor.
“If we were playing a game they would have played, but no need to get them out there today,” Odom said.
With Crockett and Witter out, others took the opportunity to stake their claim for playing time at running back. The next man up turned out to be a surprise pick, walk-on Dawson Downing. “He was the first one to get a crack because he has had a great spring,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said of Downing. “He has really competed at a high level.”
That high level continued into the spring game for Downing, a 225-pound redshirt freshman who took the first-team snaps and carried nine times for 47 yards, a touchdown and the approval of his quarterback.
“Dawson Downing came out and showed what he has been doing all spring for us,” Lock said. “I am super proud of him, as we’re both Kansas City boys. I couldn’t have asked more of him, and I know the guys would back me up when I say that he has definitely earned a spot on our roster.”
True freshman Isaiah Miller led all rushers with 57 yards.
The Tigers even got a welcome boost in special teams. The kicking game struggled badly last year, but sophomore Tucker McCann booted a 46-yarder to give Missouri fans hope that the unit may be ready to get back on track.
Odom said the Tigers wrapped up the spring game without any injuries, always a welcome result. The next step is preparing the team for the season to come in hopes of bouncing back from last year’s 4-8 disappointment.
“We have miles to go, but also I like the way they performed this spring,” Odom said.
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