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Missouri's struggles weighing on many ahead of Auburn game

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Many former Missouri football players took to social media as a 35-3 home loss to Purdue unfolded last Saturday.

Denver Broncos defensive end Shane Ray posted a Kanye West meme to voice his displeasure. Minnesota Vikings linebacker Kentrell Brothers tweeted that "this is wild." Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt just shook his head.

Senior wide receiver J'Mon Moore shook his, too, when asked about the game and the current state of the program.

"This might be one of the hardest times I've seen," Moore said. "It's kind of confusing to me right now. I can't really grasp what it is."

Second-year head coach Barry Odom, whose tired tone was evident as he recalled watching nearly half of the 53,262 in attendance last week leave by the second half, hasn't been able to grasp it, either.

Missouri (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) will face No. 15 Auburn (2-1) on Saturday night. Through three games -- a season opener against Missouri State in which the Tigers gave up 43 points, a conference opener against South Carolina in which the Tigers fell 31-13 and then last week -- Missouri's defense is the worst in the SEC and 103rd in the nation.

Be it tackling struggles, missed assignments or too many play calls Odom mentioned as a possible problem, the struggles forced a players-only meeting last Sunday.

Although Odom and staff have taken much of the blame, junior linebacker Brandon Lee said the players wanted to take responsibility.

"I don't believe anything that's happened is [the coaches'] fault," Lee said. "It comes down to us doing our jobs."

Offensively, Missouri has come down to earth from the sky-high expectations it placed upon itself prior to the season.

In the past two games, junior quarterback Drew Lock has 378 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions and a 43 percent completion percentage. Moore, who averaged the most yards per game of any receiver in the SEC last year (84.3), has only caught six passes for 90 yards in the past two games.

Sophomore running back Damarea Crockett has been quiet, too, unable to build off his 202-yard rushing day against Missouri State.

Crockett suffered a tailbone injury in the second quarter against South Carolina, and although he did not start last Saturday, he said he feels 100 percent.

"It was tight a little bit," Crockett said, "but I feel 100 percent [this week]. I'm ready. I'm right."

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said the running game is the key for Missouri, which runs one of the fastest tempos in the country. In weeks past, early three-and-outs have plagued that side of the ball, and Crockett has realized this.

"When we go three-and-out, it's tiring to the defense and they don't like that," Crockett said.

Athletic director Jim Sterk hopes things get going soon.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sterk, who did not hire Odom, said he was disappointed by the Purdue loss and he understood the lack of fan support. Still, he noted there were nine games left, and he expects improvement.

Odom, whose buyout is $1.8 million, knows improvements have to be made for him to keep his job -- improvements that need to be shown this week against Auburn.

"We're three games into this deal, and we've got nine games left," Odom said. "I still believe with very strong conviction that we'll be all right. We'll keep working, I know that."