Photo via Bill Carter (of course).
It was another good weekend for Mizzou athletics. Basketball won easily on Friday night, Football won comfortably, Volleyball swept A&M ... basically the only blemishes were Wrestling losing to Illinois on Friday night and Women's Basketball going only 1-1. Otherwise: great stuff. A buddy of mine from Chicago (Southside on RMN) was in town and went 3-0 (Basketball -> Football -> Volleyball). We also, of course, welcomed TB from Bring On The Cats to town. He plays a featured role in the diary below.
Early game means late tailgate arrival. We roll up with two Flat Branch growlers in tow. The Beef and The Tailgate Queen, as always, were the first ones in the lot and put together a lovely spread. This reminds me ... I owe them money for the season's food. Dammit.
As mentioned, TB is in town, and we try to show him as much hospitality as he showed RPT and UribeAuction in Manhattan last year. And as is the custom, photos are taken.
It is cold and windier than the Weather Channel predicted. Of course ... it's also November. This should have been expected.
After RPT and Uribe head off to perform actual journalism, we sneak TB into our section for his first official Faurot experience. On television, Jim Knox interviews Gary Pinkel after the Senior Day ceremony, and ... it once again becomes very easy to remember why Pinkel is so great. He still has tears in his eyes, and he talks about how much this tiny senior class gave to the program. When he says he sees all of his players as his sons, you believe it, on Senior Day more than any other time. Each fall, he sends 15-25 seniors off to never play in black and gold again, and it wrecks him. He says that he needs to regain his emotional stability before the game starts, and Knoxy lets him.
15:00 - Kansas State wins the toss and elects to defer, meaning … you guessed it … Mizzou starts the game with the ball! Marcus Murphy fields the kickoff at the 2 and finds a nice seam to the 28. He was almost able to cut back to the outside, but not quite. Mizzou opens with a sideline pass to Michael Egnew for five yards -- they had begun to fall away from that play a bit the last couple of weeks. After De'Vion Moore goes for seven yards and a first down, Blaine Gabbert is sacked after escaping the pocket on first down. On the scale of 1 to WHY THE HELL DID YOU LEAVE THE POCKET???, this was about a 3.5. On second down, however, he finds Jerrell Jackson, who makes a very tough catch for 13 yards and another first down. Jackson really does seem to do better when passes have a higher degree of difficulty.
From midfield, Mizzou then throws a curveball. In comes James Franklin, who fakes the jet sweep to Moore and goes straight up the middle for 17 yards. My first reaction: wow, that run had quite a bit of in it. My second reaction: oh god, fans are going to become that much more unbearable now. Sure enough, there is a very impressive pro-Franklin rumble around us as The Beef says "Yeah, we just totally screwed ourselves on that play."
From there, the drive quickly stalls out. Moore goes for three yards, then a quick pass to T.J. Moe loses two. On third-and-9, Mizzou tries to surprise KSU with a zone read, but the resulting Gabbert keeper only goes for three yards. Facing a stiff wind and a 46-yard field goal, Mizzou elects to go for it, and … good news: we threw to a running back! Bad news: Gabbert found Moore for four yards on fourth-and-six. K-State's ball.
10:23 - TB nervously watches the huddle to see who emerges as K-State's quarterback. And the winner is ... Carson Coffman! TB curses. On KSU's first offensive play, Zaviar Gooden almost steps in front of a pass intended for Aubrey Quarles and takes it to the house, but it falls incomplete instead. (Gooden will have yet another great game today. It will be a damn shame if/when he doesn't get a ton of all-conference votes. With such a ridiculous number of injuries, Gooden has been the stalwart and most consistent star.)
After Daniel Thomas goes for five yards on second down (Andrew Wilson made the tackle -- he and Thomas will get well-acquainted today), Travis Tannahill drops a third-and-5 pass. It wouldn't have gone for a first down, and it won't be the biggest drop Tannahill suffers today. KSU punts, and Carl Gettis calls fair catch at the Mizzou 37.
9:23 - Mizzou starts their second drive with another short pass, this time a bubble screen to Jerrell Jackson for six yards. Gabbert finds Egnew on the sideline for 11 on the next snap, and Mizzou is across midfield. After Kendial Lawrence misses a hole and is stopped for one yard (after the game, I couldn't actually remember if Lawrence had touched the ball), Mizzou uncorks their first of many successful jet sweeps to a wide receiver. T.J. Moe goes for 21 yards after a nice cutback (Dave Lapham: "He's got Larry, Curly and Shemp blocking for him." Sigh. Lapham is very clearly the cheesy uncle that the kids love until they turn about 10 ... then quickly grow to hate, or at least avoid.)
After the first of three Jayson Palmgren false starts, Gabbert goes up the middle for nine yards out of an empty set. James Franklin is back in again, but he keeps the ball when he should hand off to Lawrence, and he is stopped for a five-yard loss. Sadly, that is probably a good thing considering the pro-Franklin sentiment. The dude still has some learning to do. On third-and-11 from the KSU 25, Gabbert fires a pass that Franklin probably couldn't make, an intermediate pass to Moe, who spins off a tackler and into the end zone. The refs say he was down at the 1, but he wasn't, and the review confirms that it is a touchdown. 7-0 Mizzou.
5:48 - Mizzou's first kickoff is a squib kick that John Hubert returns across the KSU 40. Apparently nobody realized that great kick returner William Powell is actually out, and the squib was probably unnecessary. Coffman finds nine yards on an option keeper, then Terrell Resonno jumps offside and slaps himself in the head. First down at the Mizzou 44, and another option keeper is stuffed by Jacquies Smith, Zaviar Gooden, Aldon Smith and Kenji Jackson. Second-and-11: Jasper Simmons makes the first of four solo tackles on Daniel Thomas after a gain of just two yards. Third-and-9: Coffman finds Quarles, but for just seven yards. Kansas State calls timeout after trying to draw Mizzou offside, then after doing so again, they commit a false start and punt. Glad we got to experience all of that. Ryan Doerr's punt is caught BEAUTIFULLY by Ty Zimmerman at the one-yard line. Lovely punt-and-catch there, and it will lead to KSU points.
2:38 - As do many teams, Mizzou basically sacrifices this possession after the downed punt. Gabbert sneaks ahead for one yard, then Moore goes straight ahead for two. Gabbert fires incomplete downfield to Rolandis Woodland (not going to lie: I may have made a snide comment right here, and I may not be proud of it). Matt Grabner's first punt of the day is a wounded duck into the wind, and it hits a KSU cover man … but is recovered by KSU at Mizzou's 41.
1:20 - TB rejoices! It's Collin Klein! Kansas State is undergoing their own "The backup QB is better!" situation right now, only in this case, the backup really does appear to be better. Klein's first play is an option keeper for 18 yards, then another for ten. Just like that, K-State is to Mizzou's 13, and the quarter ends after another seven-yard gain by Klein.
15:00 - It doesn't take K-State long to finish off the drive. Daniel Thomas gets the corner but is pushed out of bounds by Jasper Simmons at the 1, then he plows in for the touchdown on first-and-goal. It's 7-7 now, and K-State has very much established the running game with Klein in.
14:15 - Marcus Murphy fields Anthony Cantele's short, wind-addled kickoff at the 15 and returns it to the 30. It's Wes Kemp's turn to take a jet sweep, and he goes nine yards with it to the left; Jerrell Jackson then catches a quick sideliner for the first down. It did not take these two players long to put together a much better performance than they had in Lubbock. Even though they will both commit personal fouls before the game is over, they still played much better.
Henry Josey crosses midfield on an eight-yard run up the middle, then Gabbert keeps it on the zone read for 11 more. Clearly the Wildcats had no inkling that Gabbert would be keeping the ball this much. In the end, it was quite the odd run distribution for Mizzou -- quarterbacks carried 16 times, running backs carried 16 times, and receivers carried four times. It's hard to disagree with the results, however -- those 36 rushes went for 234 yards. It helped that Gabbert was making very good give-or-keep decisions.
After Prizell Brown bats down a pass over the middle (he had a nice game), Mizzou faces 3rd-and-6 from the KSU 32. You know how we have all grown tired of Gabbert tucking, running and abandoning the pocket too quickly at times? His flight instincts pay off this time -- he looks for Moe, but M-O-E-Z-O-U is covered, so he looks to run ... and finds the entire left side of the field wide open. He sprints past the linebackers to about the KSU 10 (we hear that his straight-line speed is better than James Franklin's, and he confirmed it on this play), then cuts to the outside, where Wes Kemp crushes one defensive back into another one and Gabbert walks in for a 33-yard touchdown. Great run, great block (Lapham says "de-CLEAT-er" about 16 times in 30 seconds), and Mizzou is up 14-7. In the end, the plays that won this game for Mizzou were ones in which they were just too physical for Kansas State. That's a surprising thing to say, but it's true.
11:37 - Trey Barrow can't quite get the ensuing kick to the end zone but a holding penalty on a decent Quarles return backs KSU up to their 16. Klein picks up where he left off with another keeper, but Gooden brings him down for a loss of one. On second down, Klein throws it so low to Braden Wilson that it almost bounces off of his shoe instead of the ground, and is subsequently almost intercepted. On third-and-11, KSU spreads Mizzou out, then runs Klein straight up the middle for 36 yards on a draw. It was terribly predictable … and terribly successful.
Now off the hook after facing a three-and-out, KSU gains steam. Thomas goes for four yards, then Klein goes for three, and on third-and-3, KSU runs an option to the right. Jarrell Harrison closes on Klein and forces the pitch to Thomas … and there's nobody else to stop Thomas. He picks up the first down, then cuts to the left for 36 yards. Thankfully, he's not fast, and Jacquies Smith catches up to him at the Mizzou six. Two plays later, however, Thomas finishes it off with another short touchdown run. 14-14.
7:24 - More good field position for Mizzou! The wind knocks down a Josh Cherry kickoff at the Mizzou 20, and Murphy goes 14 yards after almost over-running it. Gabbert finds Moe on an out for six yards, then Moore goes off tackle for 15 yards. It's always nice needing only two plays to get into opposing field position. Now it's time for Mizzou to try a trick play: Gabbert hands to Moe, who goes long for a double-covered Wes Kemp but throws about 10 yards too long. Lapham will kindly say that Moe intentionally threw it away, but … I'm not sure.
On second down from the KSU 45, Gabbert steps and fires an absolute dart to Jackson at the 25. (The pass moves Gabbert past Corby Jones on Mizzou's total yardage list.) Jerrell gets lit up, but holds on once again. Gabbert goes for seven on a QB draw, then six more on a zone read to the KSU 10. As the announcers are talking about Gabbert's movie-star good looks (it makes no more sense if you actually listen to the context of the conversation), he gives to Jackson on another jet sweep. It is clear from Jackson's second step that he can walk into the end zone (Moore and Egnew are waiting to block somebody and can't actually find anybody) … and he almost actually tries to walk into the end zone. It's the easiest nine-yard run you'll ever see, and it's 21-14 Mizzou.
4:06 - Now comes one of the turning-point drives of the game. Aubrey Quarles returns to KSU's 34, and three runs (Klein, Thomas, and Thomas) get nine yards. KSU calls timeout with 2:16 remaining (they had killed two minutes without actually getting a first down … they are masters of clock-milking), then Klein sneaks for a first down on 4th-and-1, right where Dominique Hamilton would have been lining up. Because the staff apparently doesn't want Klein throwing the ball, they call timeout and bring Coffman back in. TB is nonplussed. After Coffman is stopped by Aldon Smith for no gain, he finds a wide open Cole Bachamp at the Mizzou 30, but Bachamp drops the pass. Mizzou suffers another passing downs breakdown on third down, however; Coffman finds Quarles for 14 yards and a first down. This will become a trend. On the next play, Coffman finds a far-too-open Adrian Hilburn for 20 more yards, and KSU is to the Mizzou 20. Jacquies Smith jumps offside, then Coffman finds Hilburn again for 14 more yards to the Mizzou half-yard line. (Kip Edwards has been far from impressive in the last couple of ball games.)
And here's where inches and seconds play such a huge role. Hilburn came about two or three inches within scoring a touchdown, and Coffman is about to run a QB sneak when the whistle blows to review the play. The call is confirmed … and then Coffman fumbles the ensuing snap and Jacquies Smith recovers. If Hilburn gets another few inches, KSU scores. If the whistle doesn't blow for the review, Coffman possibly doesn't fumble. Regardless, it's Mizzou's ball with 19 seconds left in the half. Gabbert plunges forward on the last play, and Mizzou takes a 21-14 lead into halftime. Huge, huge play.
This is neither here nor there, but the bathroom lines at halftime were by far the longest I've ever seen at Faurot Field. Apparently everybody just wanted to escape the wind. (Actually, come to think of it, quite a few never came back.)
We'll once again go with bullet points to start the second half, as a) the first four drives produced no points, and b) I wasn't actually in my seat for the first two drives -- I told you, the damn bathroom lines were ridiculous.
- 15:00 - Collin Klein goes straight up the gut for 18 yards on the first play of the second half, but thanks to a nice third-down stop by Andrew Gachkar, KSU soon has to punt.
- 12:22 - Gabbert narrowly misses Moe on a deep ball down the left sideline, and Mizzou advances into KSU territory after a nice Lawrence run and a personal foul. But Gabbert forces a ball downfield to Moe, and it is deflected and picked off.
- 11:47 - Klein finds Quarles on a nice rollout pass, but Gachkar bats away a third-down pass to huge tight end Andre McDonald, and KSU punts again.
- 9:54 - KSU has come out in a lot more packages with three down linemen, and it has taken Gabbert a bit to adjust. He finds Michael Egnew for 10 yards on a high pass (Egnew came down hard), then gets Egnew lit up by leading him too far into the safety. Mizzou ends up punting again.
7:51 - The fifth drive of the half finally generates points ... but not for the offense. Carson Coffman is back in, and he finds Quarles for another 19 yards (he had the quietest 9-catch, 133-yard day I've ever seen -- I would have guessed he had about five catches ... though that might say more about me than Quarles). But from the Mizzou 37, a defensive tweak pays off. Mizzou has Aldon Smith pass rushing against KSU's guards, and it works; he swats Zach Kendall aside and absolutely obliterates Coffman. Jacquies Smith rips the ball from a KSU lineman and races to the end zone with a convoy of Tiger blockers. Coffman struggles to get up, and Mizzou is up 28-14. Whenever Aldon Smith is drafted (hopefully April 2012), poor Carson Coffman will get to see himself getting lit up on every Smith highlight reel that is shown.
5:30 - Another squib kick? Barrow kicks to up-man Jarett Wright, and KSU starts at their 45. Don't understand that … but that is much more understandable than the Fumblerooski play that follows. Klein gives John Hubert the ball between his legs, then rolls right like he's running an option. Only Carl Gettis and (maybe) Brad Madison figure out what's going on, and Gettis rips the ball out of Hubert's hands. Mizzou ball. Not quite "Justin Smith gets confused on the Statue of Liberty play, so he shoves Marc Bulger into Amos Zeroueue in the 1998 Insight.com Bowl", but Gettis just used force to solve trickeration.
You can certainly see what K-State was going for here -- if Gettis hadn't gotten in the way, Hubert would have had about seven blockers moving to the left, while the remaining half of the Mizzou defense that didn't follow Klein was on its heels leaning right. It could have worked pretty well, but a great individual effort by The Carl Gettis Treatment™ on Senior Day mucked things up.
5:22 - Egnew is back after getting the wind knocked out of him, and Gabbert turns around a defender and finds him for 25 yards to the KSU 20. Three runs (Gabbert, Josey, Moore) go for nine yards, and Mizzou brings in the double jumbo (my name for the two extra linemen) for fourth-and-1. So far, the Double Jumbo is guaranteed to bring about one of two things: either a defensive timeout or an offensive false start. This time Jayson Palmgren does the honors, jumping early and moving Mizzou back five yards. They settle for a 33-yard Grant Ressel field goal. It's 31-14, but the false start is still annoying.
2:51 - Barrow actually kicks deep this time, and Hubert returns to the KSU 26. K-State remembers that "Oh yeah, Daniel Thomas is a pretty good runner, and we're not asking him to run much." He goes for three yards on first down, but he bobbles the handoff on second down and is stuck for a gain of one. On third down, Coffman comes back in and is once again rudely greeted by Aldon Smith. Smith (up the middle) and Brad Madison (from the left edge) both get to Coffman immediately for another sack Ryan Doerr punts; Carl Gettis lets it hit the turf, and it bounces another 15 yards back to the Mizzou 23.
0:56 - Hey, hey! It's Rolandis Woodland! Gabbert fakes the jet sweep to Moe and goes over the top to Woodland for 51 yards. He holds on, then loses his footing. That had to feel a bit cathartic for Gabbert (a great pass on a deep ball) and double jumbo cathartic for Woodland, who was justifiably leaking confidence after a very poor couple of games.
By the way, it bears mentioning what a great job of adjustment Mizzou did in the second half. We can debate whether "halftime adjustments" truly exist, or whether adjustments are just done incrementally throughout the game, but by the late third quarter, Mizzou was a step ahead of K-State on both sides of the ball. As KSU adjusted to the short passing, Mizzou aggressively went downfield, and it worked just enough. They also maintained the run against a three-man line. On defense, they moved Aldon Smith to the middle (a mini-Candy Formation, I guess) on passing downs, and it twice paid off huge. This game will be remembered for the fumbles and Gabbert's rushing as much as anything, but Mizzou obtained a tactical advantage in the last part of the third quarter, and they took complete and total advantage of it.
De'Vion Moore runs for 11 yards to the KSU 15, and the third quarter comes to an end.
15:00 - It's the T.J. Moe Show to start the fourth quarter. He takes a jet sweep to the right and darts around for a nice gain but is stripped. Dan Hoch saves the day with an, um, athletic catch of the fumble...
...then on first-and-goal from the 4, Gabbert finds Moe on an easy play-action touchdown. Mizzou has burst out to a 38-14 lead thanks to turnovers and second-half adjustments.
14:25 - Touchback!!! First one in a while. KSU starts at their 20, and Mizzou all but applies the dagger. Coffman can't quite put enough zip on a rollout pass, and Jasper Simmons steps in front of it to make a nice interception on the sideline. (TB is a solid 8 on the Apoplectic Scale right now. I realize Coffman is the better passer, but ... Klein really probably should have been in the game.) We know now that Mizzou has already scored enough to win, and it's a good thing, because…
14:18 - …Mizzou begins to lose focus. Gabbert finds Moe for three yards, then Kemp for 17 on a tough over-the-middle pass. But then Palmgren commits yet another false start (getting really frustrated with him), then after a short rush by Lawrence and a short scramble by Gabbert, Egnew flinches for another false start. On third-and-13, Gabbert is tripped up by Prizell Brown for a sack, and then Wes Kemp commits a late hit personal foul, and Grabner punts from the KSU 44. Three penalties for 20 yards and a sack are not really the best way to capitalize on a turnover.
11:31 - Up 24, Mizzou's defense loses a bit of focus as well. That, and KSU goes back to executing very well. Klein goes for 17 yards, then finds Quarles for a 10-yard pass. More Klein (three yards) and more Quarles (six), then a little more Klein (three). Braden Wilson goes for two, then Klein goes for six and four. Sufficiently lulled to sleep with the run, Mizzou leaves Adrian Hilburn wide open on the play-action pass. Jasper Simmons does a horrible job of trying to strip Hilburn (he forgets to attempt the tackle), and Hilburn scores from 35 yards out. Thomas plows in on the two-point conversion attempt, and it's 38-22. It took almost five minutes off the clock, but that was a lovely response drive for K-State.
6:55 - First things first: kudos to Anthony Cantele for putting together an absolutely gorgeous onside kick. The second bounces soars high into the air, and KSU recovers. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, this plays out exactly like Oklahoma's onside attempt -- they jumped offsides. Also like Oklahoma: Jerrell Jackson commits a dumbass personal foul after Mizzou eventually recovers the next kick. Nobody in the country is better than randomly turning his brain off than Jerrell.
So after some fun drama, Mizzou starts at their 32. Gabbert goes for 13 on another zone read keep, but after Moore goes for two yards off right tackle, Gabbert passes low and away to Kemp, who can't reel it in. (Now that the pass has fallen incomplete, I can call it a bad play-call. I like aggression ... when it works. When it doesn't, I'll throw on the hindsight as well as anybody.) On third-and-8, Gabbert picks up five yards, and Mizzou punts with 4:37 left. The drive could have killed another 30-40 seconds if not for the pass to Kemp.
4:28 - Now it's Carson Coffman's turn to put together a last-ditch drive, and to his credit, he does just that. For one reason or another, it appears that Mizzou has reverted to 2009 form on passing downs. Two incomplete passes set up 3rd-and-10 ... and Coffman finds Quarles for 24 yards. Coffman desperately escapes the pocket for four yards, then is sacked by Brad Madison ... and he finds Daniel Thomas for 12 yards on 3rd-and-15. On fourth-and-3, it's Coffman-to-Quarles again for 13. Coffman again fires incomplete and is again sacked on second down (this time by Michael Sam and Jacquies Smith) ... and again finds Thomas on a shovel pass for 16 yards on 3rd-and-16. Sheesh. Aldon Smith bats down a first down pass from the Mizzou 26, but Coffman finds Quarles around the Mizzou 10 ... Kenji Jackson slips, then Jasper Simmons and Kip Edwards both whiff on tackles, and Quarles scores. Really no other way to say it: Mizzou's secondary played very, very poorly in the fourth quarter.
It's 38-28, and K-State lines up for a suddenly huge two-point conversion. If they convert, they're one possession down with 1:11 remaining, and they've got a tremendous onside kicker ready to do his thing. Coffman rolls right like he's looking for Thomas out of the backfield, then looks back left and lobs to a wide open Travis Tannahill. Kenji Jackson is late coming over ... and Tannahill drops the pass. Ballgame. Obviously even if he caught it, K-State still had to recover an onside kick, drive down the field in just over a minute, and convert another two-point conversion just to tie ... but wow, was that a huge drop. Things could have gotten very interesting. Instead, the rest of the game is a formality.
1:11 - Cantele's latest onside kick attempt is actually quite poor, and Mizzou covers it easily. De'Vion Moore rushes for five yards, and KSU doesn't call timeout, so Mizzou lines up in Victory Formation on second down ... and Bill Snyder then calls timeout. TB makes a Ron Prince joke, and I worry that The Beef is going to try to punch him with me in between them. On third down, Snyder uses his final timeout, forcing Mizzou to punt with 0:24 left. Grabner's kick bounces into the end zone ... and after all that, KSU throws another damn shovel pass on the game's final play. Just an odd way to wrap things up.
So another home season comes to a close at The Zou with Mizzou's second undefeated home record in four years. They are now 26-5 at home since the start of the 2006 season.
In some ways, this was a game that annoyed both fanbases -- KSU fans were frustrated with the fumbles and the fact that they didn't get nearly as much Collin Klein as they preferred. Mizzou fans were frustrated with the defensive lapses. (Others were, I'm sure, still annoyed with Blaine Gabbert and David Yost for one reason or another, but after a game like this, their opinions just don't count.) But in the end, Mizzou took better advantage of tactical adjustments, fell on the loose balls, hit harder, and deserved the win.
Mizzou stands at 8-2, and they will be favored in their final two contests. It appears that, barring unforeseen turns, Mizzou is looking at either a trip to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl (possibly against Stanford -- yikes -- or Arizona) or a trip to Arizona for the Insight Bowl (possibly against Michigan). Either newly upgraded bowl will be a nice destination for a team that suffered through a wealth of injuries, a little more August drama than anyone would care to experience, and the ups-and-downs of what is still a rather young team.
To make sure that they fall no lower than the Insight Bowl, however, Mizzou will need to take care of business in Ames this coming weekend in weather conditions that will likely be quite similar to what they faced Saturday morning at Faurot Field. The season may have ended in Columbia, but there are three more games left to define the 2010 season.