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Mizzou’s defensive coordinator fired after a bad start, but one report says that’s not why

Things could be better in Columbia.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida
DeMontie Cross, right, was fired Sunday as Missouri’s defensive coordinator.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri is 1-1 after getting palindromed by South Carolina on Saturday, 31-13. Being 1-1 through two games is fine. But giving up 43 points to FCS Missouri State in Week 1 wasn’t much good, and neither was allowing 31 to the Gamecocks.

Mizzou’s 74 points allowed through two weeks include one kick return TD by South Carolina, but even with that filtered out, it’s been an ugly start for Cross’ unit.

So head coach Barry Odom’s making a change. He fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross on Sunday. A replacement hasn’t yet been named.

Bill Connelly writes for Rock M Nation:

The move is a little strange in that it comes two games into the season, and after Missouri held South Carolina to a solid 5.3 yards per play in a 31-13 loss on Saturday night. Odom elected to keep Cross after a disappointing 2016 campaign, then kept him after a disastrous first-game performance against Missouri State. But after the Tigers allowed 35 points in the first half against MSU, the defense allowed only 32 points in the last three halves -- not great, but definitively better.

It's been clear that Missouri's defense is not up to snuff, both from an execution standpoint and an instruction standpoint. That alone makes this move less than surprising, even if it smells of scapegoating to some degree.

We’ll find out more details soon, obviously. One would assume that either Odom will assume defensive coordinator duties, or that he will promote co-coordinator Ryan Walters to full-time duties. Brian Odom could be moved from outside linebackers coach to linebackers coach, too. Or, depending on what names the head coach has in the Rolodex, technically an in-season replacement could be found.

Per one report, Cross’ firing isn’t about how bad the defense has been.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says:

One source close to the decision said Cross' firing has "zero to do with on-field performance." Odom essentially demoted Cross seven games into the 2016 season when he took over defensive play-calling duties and scrapped some schematic changes made under Cross' watch. This season, Cross was moved from the sideline to the press box during game days where he watched the game with staff's graduate assistants and analysts.

At any rate, Missouri’s defensive performance couldn’t have helped.

Mizzou’s churned out a bunch of NFL talent from its defensive front, but the results the last few years have been bad. This defense was great in 2015, when it allowed 15 points per game and finished No. 5 nationally in scoring defense. Odom was the defensive coordinator that year under head coach Gary Pinkel.

Last year, the defense regressed badly in Cross’ first year running it, finishing No. 89 and allowing 32 points per game. It was a rapid descent, and nothing about the first two games of 2017 has made it look better.

Missouri’s now No. 114 in scoring D after games against a) an FCS team, and b) a Will Muschamp team that finished No. 116 in scoring offense last year. Without the kickoff return included (but without filtering non-offensive TDs for other defenses), Missouri would still be 105th in scoring defense.

The Tigers face offensive juggernaut Purdue next week. I’m only partially kidding.