The Missouri Tigers are entering the stretch run of the 2018 season --- and Drew  Lock is entering the stretch run of his career with the team.

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Nov. 8, 2018

COLUMBIA, Mo. --- Every coach will tell you that every win is a good win.

Just like every coach expects every player to take it one play at a time, and give 110 percent on every play.

Uh-huh.

You can't give more than 100 percent and there's a difference between beating UT-Martin and beating Alabama ... although Alabama will obviously never lose again.

The Missouri Tigers hadn't had a good win in several years. None under the leadership of Barry Odom. None in the highly-touted career --- and for the most part, deservedly so --- of senior quarterback Drew Lock.

Until Saturday.

Yes, the Florida Gators looked hungover after losing to rival Georgia the week before in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Gators QB Feleipe Franks (9-of-22 for 84 yards vs. MU) shouldn't have had those triple-shot Bloody Marys.

Still, the Missouri Tigers went on the road, wandered into the Swamp, and took the No. 11 Gators by the snouts and whipped them around in a 38-17 romp.

Validation ... how sweet it is, no matter how long the wait.

Some fans were actually calling for Odom to be fired after Mizzou's the-play-after-the-last-play one-point loss to Kentucky the week before. That was a heartbreaker, to be sure, but talk of Odom's demise was just silly. He inherited a program in shambles and has taken it back to respectability.

Lock, on the flip side, needed this validation much more than Odom. Not just because he hadn't beaten a quality team, but because he'd disappeared faster than a Claire McCaskill TV ad when facing quality teams.

Missing those ads? Me too.

It was a great effort by Lock --- 24-of-32 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions --- thanks in large part, if not most part, to the return of his BFF receiver Emmanuel Hall, who caught four passes 71 yards and a score.

Hall is the Tigers' version of Tyreek Hill, the player who runs faster than anyone else on the field and who stretches and opens the field for the Kansas City Chiefs. That's what Hall does for Lock and the Tigers.

He is a difference maker, plain and simple, perhaps the biggest difference maker at that position since Jeremy Maclin for the Tigers.

After this convincing win at Florida, the Tigers and their fans must be wondering what might have been, because they're two plays away from being 7-2 instead of 5-4 --- including the distasteful loss at South Carolina.

But 5-4 is what it is. And 8-4 is what they should end up as the Tigers stare down the stretch run. .

Two of Mizzou's last three games are at home, and all three are against teams with losing records and less inspiring resumes' than Matt Lauer.

^ First, it's Saturday at home against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt, enough said --- even though this could be the toughest test of the three.

^ Second, at Tennessee, a good program with another bad team --- the Vols are 8-13 the last two seasons.

^ Lastly, at home against Arkansas, which lost to North Texas. At home. By 27 points. Hog heaven? This program has gone in the opposite direction.

That would add up to 8-4 --- at least it should add up to 8-4 --- and a date in a decent bowl game against a decent team. Wouldn't you have taken that before the season?

Keep Hall and the offensive line healthy, keep Lock upright, and keep watching junior linebacker/tackling machine Cale Garrett lead a better-than-advertised defense, and the rest of 2018 should be an enjoyable ride.

That would certainly be a good win for this program.

Starting with Vandy, stretch
run should be good for Mizzou