The crowd at Faurot Field erupted as Missouri safety Martez Manuel charged at Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada, sending him to the ground for a loss of 17 yards.
Down 28-14 in the third quarter, the Tigers had a much-needed spark from the sack. But then on the following play, with Texas A&M facing second-and-17, Tigers defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo was called for a holding penalty. Texas A&M was awarded 10 yards and proceeded to score its fifth touchdown of the day within a few minutes.
Missouri committed a season-high 13 penalties for 106 yards in the 35-14 defeat to the No. 21 Aggies, often stripping itself of any gained momentum at the few times where it seemed like it might have a chance to shorten the deficit in a game that Texas A&M controlled from the opening kickoff.
Across their three losses in SEC play, the Tigers have conceded an average of 89.3 yards per game due to their own penalty woes.
“Before we can win a championship, we gotta keep from beating ourselves,” Eli Drinkwitz said. “And we weren’t able to do that today.”
The Tigers’ lack of discipline was evident early in the contest. They committed their first penalty of the afternoon on the fifth play of their opening drive when wide receiver Tauskie Dove was called for an illegal shift, turning a second-and-10 into second-and-15. Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak threw an interception on the following play, which led to an Aggie touchdown shortly thereafter.
On the first sequence of its second drive, Mizzou faced a fourth-and-1 after failing to make good on its first three downs. Drinkwitz elected to go for the conversion, but offensive lineman Javon Foster jumped before the snap, drawing officials to throw the flag for a false start penalty. Instead of going for the first down, as they were in position to do before the call, the Tigers were forced to punt the ball away
Following the 60-yard punt, the Texas A&M offense stormed 89 yards down the field for a touchdown in just five plays across 1 minute, 33 seconds. Just like that, with a little under eight minutes left in the first quarter, Mizzou was already in a 14-0 hole.
Missouri had several instances where its defense needed a stop on third down, but instead committed pass interference penalties to give the Aggies the automatic first down.
On third-and-7 with Texas A&M at the 31-yard line, Texas A&M quarterback Calzada threw the ball downfield to wide receiver Jalen Wydermyer. MU safety Shawn Robinson thought he had come up with a clean stop but was called for the interference. After moving to the 46-yard-line with the call, the Aggies produced a string of explosive plays and scored a touchdown, putting the Tigers in a 21-0 hole.
Tyler Badie gave the Tigers some life with a 32-yard rushing touchdown a few drives later in the second quarter, bringing them within 14 points, but yet another self-inflicted error would get in the way on the next defensive drive.
Defensive back Akayleb Evans tugged on the jersey of Jalen Preston on third-and-6, leading to a quick pass interference flag that moved the Aggies to the 49-yard line. They had a 27 yard completion on the following play and extended the lead to 28-7 soon thereafter.
“[Penalties] hurt us a lot,” defensive back Evans said. “Just things happen throughout the game, sometimes you can’t really control it seems like, you just have to play with it sometimes.”
The Wingo holding call was one of six defensive penalties on the Tigers. There were a decent amount of holding calls on the offensive line too, as well as a couple of completely unnecessary block-in-the-back penalties.
When asked what led to the rise in penalties, Drinkwitz said he couldn’t identify anything specific until he went back and watched the game film. But he did remark that his team needs to improve on its fundamentals and technique moving forward, noting that those play a big role in penalties being committed.
“Hands inside is one of the key ingredients for not getting a holding call, we had several of those,” Drinkwitz said. “Pass interference ... when their hands go up, you got to get your eyes around the ball’s in the air. You know, can’t put hands on a wide receiver when you’re trying to knock the ball out. So those are techniques and fundamentals, and if you don’t do them properly, then we get penalized.”
Drinkwitz: “Huge. We had big plays or had third-down stops and had pass-interference calls and had big plays, had holding penalties .... I mean, just can’t do it. Can’t do it, got to fix it. And gotta fix it.”