Taking the Test

Well, after a weekend that beat me over the head with travel, I figured it’s time to shake off the Saturday slump and take a closer look at what we learned from Mizzou’s 41-31 road loss to then-No.6 Oklahoma. Here's a look at the Good, Bad, and Indifferent from Saturday:

GOOD:

-- The Tigers belong: Missouri may not have held on to that pipe dream of a potential BCS national title, but the Tigers proved Saturday evening that they can play with the best of ‘em, presuming they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Last year, the Tigers were outclassed by OU in CoMo. This year, the Tigers proved they deserve to be in the conversation with the Big 12’s best.
-- The Run D can play when energized: We still don’t know how the unit can do for a full four quarters, but for the game’s first three quarters, the run defense was stout. Gaps were filled, containment was held, tacklers were wrapping up. Eventually OU just wore out the Tigers, who were done no favors by MU turnovers on offense. Chris Brown said following the game that "In the fourth quarter, they just looked tired. You could see it in their eyes."
-- The special teams stepped up: Adam Crossett had a good day (thanks in large part to the boneheaded mistakes of Reggie Smith on returns), Jeff Wolfert did his job, the block unit came close on punts and blocked a Garrett Hartley PAT, the return teams were solid whenever the ball was actually returnable, and the coverage teams had a decent evening.
-- 5-1 isn't a surprise: Lest we not forget, in the preseason, most people had Mizzou penciled in at either 4-2 or 5-1 at this point. The Tigers have been impressive
-- Norman is awesome: Having made the trip, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better gameday atmosphere as a visiting fan. The fan base was respectful yet confident and extremely football-savvy. OU’s "There’s Only One Oklahoma" intro video game me chills despite the fact that I was decked out in my old gold.

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BAD:

-- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: A team with Missouri’s expectations can simply not afford to make that many mistakes against a team as talented and as well coached as Oklahoma. Good teams will make you pay for mistakes, and the Tigers paid that price in Norman.
-- The Tigers need to be better on first down: There were WAY too many first down plays where Mizzou gained nothing or lost yardage. First downs are too hard to come by against teams like Oklahoma as it is, and the Tigers didn’t help themselves much on first down.
-- The run game didn’t work: Missouri can get away with slow developing reads and lengthy draws against weaker opponents, but the Sooners simply had too much team speed for the backs to be effective in that situation.
-- Where was the pass rush? It looked like the Tigers made strides in that department last week, but Oklahoma line was not as accommodating. Most of OU’s better pass plays were not a result of poor coverage, but a result of the defenders not being able to chase around guys like Malcolm Kelly and Joaquin Iglesias around for as long as Bradford had to throw.
-- The OU pass rush disrupted Daniel: A lot of it was scheme and a lot of it was talent, but the Sooners simply brought the heat. Daniel gave lots of credit to the backs in blitz pickup, but Venables’ defensive gameplan threw off the Missouri offense. The ultimate hope is that no team remaining on Missouri’s schedule has the talent and athleticism to have the same success with such a scheme.

INDIFFERENT:

-- Jeremy Maclin: Maclin came up big on a few returns and was pretty much MU’s only rushing threat, but the two turnovers were deadly. All season long, I was waiting for Maclin to pull up on a direct snap like that, but with three defenders lurking (one of them being all-everything Reggie Smith), J-Mac has to know not to try and force that ball in to Rucker.
-- Chase Daniel: Once again the numbers were good, but once again Daniel struggled on the road in an intimidating Big 12 South venue (see: 2006 Texas A&M). The first interception was a major mental gaffe on Daniel’s part, and the fumble between he and Maclin, although it was chalked up to communication error, ended up sealing the win for the Sooners.
-- Coaching: A lot can be said about some decisions by Pinkel and Co. (namely throwing the offense out of rhythm with Maclin pass), but I really don’t fault the coaches for this one. On the other sideline, Stoops and Venables are among the nation’s best and they showed why. But, if the players had been able to execute and protect the football, the team was in position to win because of the coaching staff, not in spite of them.
-- MU still controls its destiny: The Tigers still control their fate in the North, but that road seems to be a little bit tougher than expected, beginning next week with Texas Tech. The Tigers should tear apart the Raider secondary, but if the Tigers couldn’t get Sam Bradford out of rhythm, then Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree could put on a show next Saturday.

So, Tiger fans, how'd you see it? Are you impressed with the Tigers? How much of an opportunity did they let get away? Let us hear what you have to say in the comments or in a diary on the right side of the page.

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