Mizzou Beats Miami: Links and Reflections

Photo by Bill Carter

First things first: the Mizzou universe felt a bit off last Saturday, and though we didn't know why at the time, it turns out there was a pretty good reason.  Mizzou-San Diego State was the first Mizzou game to take place in a world without the great John Cooper since the Tigers and Kansas tied 3-3 to finish the 1911 season.  Cooper was the older brother of longtime Missouri football assistant Clay Cooper and was inducted into the Mizzou Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992.  Mizzou has a long, proud history, and the Cooper brothers are a large reason why.  He passed away right before the start of the San Diego State game.  Condolences to the Cooper family, which includes our friend Tigerborn.

Now, to the Miami game.

At the end of the end/It's the start of a journey/To a much better place/And a much better place/Would have to be special/No reason to cry

Okay, so quoting Paul McCartney's "when I die..." song might be a bit melodramatic for this topic.  Still.  Somewhere, Don McPherson, Dick MacPherson and the rest of the late-1980s Syracuse Orangemen popped some champagne last night.  Mizzou's streak of 252 consecutive successful PATs ended in the third quarter yesterday.  It took a perfect storm, really -- bad snap, iffy hold, rushed kick, and a near-block to boot.  About two inches to the left, and it either wouldn't have hit the upright, or it would have ricocheted in.  Mizzou was approximately 2-4 games short of setting the all-time consecutive PATs streak set by Syracuse from 1978-89.  Not going to lie: we were pretty shaken by this, at least temporarily.  Say what you will about Gary Pinkel and staff, but they have figured out how to coach quarterbacks, centers and kickers.  The current PAT streak now stands at two.  Just 260 more to go.

Better get yourself together/Let's rock/Hit it, RUN!

Well, that's one way to open up the downfield passing game.  Mizzou's four-headed running back had by far 'its' best game of the season.  In three games, Miami had allowed a total of 166 rushing yards; Kendial Lawrence, De'Vion Moore, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy combined for 204 yards and four touchdowns on just 21 carries.  It all clicked -- the runners had outstanding vision (especially Kendial Lawrence on his touchdown run) and acceleration, the blocking was ridiculously good, and the snap-to-handoff time was better (for the most part).  And when Miami finally tried to adjust, Blaine Gabbert executed a perfect play-fake and zipped a 33-yard touchdown to a wiiiiiiiide open Wes Kemp in the first drive of the second half.

From the start of the game to the end of Marcus Murphy's spinning, twirling 30-yard run (the last true rush of the game), Mizzou averaged 7.5 yards per rush and 10.1 yards per throw.  It was near-perfect offensive execution against a team that had actually been reasonably stingy through three games.  Individually, this game doesn't say anything more about Mizzou than the San Diego State game did last week, but whereas we got a pretty good idea of the offense's floor against SDSU, we were shown a glimpse of the offense's ceiling yesterday, and it was encouraging to say the least.

There's lots of room for you on the bandwagon/The road may be rough, the weather may forget us/But won't we all parade around and sing our songs

We at Rock M have long driven the bandwagon for The Carl Gettis Treatment™, and at times I think it is safe to say we were the only ones on the bandwagon.  Let's just say that things are a bit more crowded four games into Gettis' senior season.  In the first four games, Gettis has pulled off an incredible, one-handed interception, downed two punts at the 1, made a huge third-down tackle that gave Mizzou one last shot against San Diego State (an opportunity they did not relinquish), broken up two passes, averaged 8.4 yards per punt return (including a touchdown that was called back), and returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown.  Nevermind "he's not terrible" credentials -- those are straight-up all-conference credentials right there.  Will we still be calling him an all-conference player two more months from now?  No idea (the odds are not fantastic), but we need to take a moment to realize just how great he has been so far this season.  Even acknowledging the occasional breakdowns in 2008-09, there is simply no doubt in my mind that the Mizzou defense is infinitely better with a healthy Carl Gettis.  (Here's where I once again remind you that the 2009 breakdowns against Nebraska and Baylor might not have happened had The Treatment™ been healthy.)

And in case you're still not sold on Gettis, just know that there's always other boys, there's always other boyfriendsKevin Rutland (2 INTs, 2 pass break-ups) has looked pretty damn good too.

I'm looking through you/Where did you go

It's hard to find much to complain about in a game where, as I mentioned above, Mizzou averaged seven yards per carry and 10 yards per pass (with a 74% completion rate) until they slammed on the brakes.  That said, I do have one issue to raise: Blaine Gabbert is still thinking too much sometimes, particularly in the two-minute drill and in the red zone.  As a whole, Gabbert was relaxed and confident, and he stepped up in the pocket a few times instead of fleeing into the path of the rushing (and well-blocked) defensive end.  He has made progress in that regard.  But his in-the-pocket clock reared its ugly head in the final drive of the first half.

After taking a couple of killer sacks earlier in the season, it was clearly drilled into him that "You can't take a sack that knocks you out of scoring position! Especially late in the half!"  In theory, this is absolutely something he needs to learn.  In practice, it meant that he was tucking and running after going through one read, maybe two.  He scrambled four times over six plays in the two-minute drill, with progressively diminishing returns (5 yards, then 6, then 2, then 2).  A silly personal foul penalty against Miami prolonged Mizzou's final drive of the first half, but on first-and-5 from the Miami 10, Gabbert then tried to throw through two defenders to find Michael Egnew in the end zone, and it was picked off.  Again, it was just one drive.  Take that drive out of the equation, and Gabbert was 12-for-16 (75%) for 157 yards (9.8 per pass) and a touchdown.  Very good.  We just saw that further development is still necessary here.

October/And kingdoms rise/And kingdoms fall/But you go on

As two-a-days were kicking up in August, a 4-0 start was not necessarily a foregone conclusion ... but it was close.  Mizzou may have needed two fourth-quarter comebacks to do it, but they are indeed now 4-0 despite the demoralizing loss of Derrick Washington and, really, an underrated succession of injuries.  Heading into 2010, we thought Mizzou's defense might be decent if players like Jasper Simmons and Luke Lambert made nice progress in their senior seasons, and we thought their linebacker depth would be a strength.  Instead, Simmons has missed 3+ games, Lambert has missed 3+ games, Will Ebner has missed two, Aldon Smith one, and Donovan Bonner has not played a single snap after a season-ending knee injury in camp.  And Mizzou has still allowed a tolerable 320.5 yards per game.  Take out the flukish (and technically illegal) 93-yard run by Ronnie Hillman, and that average goes down to 297.3.  Take out the 98-yard drive allowed by the third-stringers late yesterday, and the average goes down further.

They adjusted and shut down a solid Illinois running game.  They shut down a thoroughly competent San Diego State passing game.  They shut down a reasonably efficient Miami passing game.  And they have forced a boatload of turnovers in the process.  No, they have not faced a murderer's row just yet.  But if there is a single reason for continued optimism as Big 12 play begins in two weeks, it is that the defense has been as good or better than we might have expected, and we have yet to see Ebner, Lambert, Simmons and Aldon Smith on the field all at the same time.  The offense is not playing at 2007-08 level -- we might never see a Mizzou offense playing at that level again -- but with solid defense and very good special teams, the recipe has certainly begun to meld together pretty well.  They got lucky against San Diego State, sure, but in my current optimistic state, I say that good luck just counters the bad luck of the previous month.

(Oh yeah, and their leading returning receiver has been severely limited by injury as well.)

As Big 12 play looms, we are quickly coming to realize that this is quite a transition year for the conference (and I'm not even talking about that whole "moving from 12 teams to 10" thing).  We have seen high ceilings and low floors for the three major conference powers -- Oklahoma (ceiling: Florida State, floor: Utah State), Texas (floor: UCLA, ceiling: ...Tech?), and Nebraska (ceiling: Washington, floor: South Dakota State).  We've seen the same from the conference's second tier -- Oklahoma State (ceiling: Tulsa, floor: Troy), Texas A&M (ceiling: Louisiana Tech, floor: Florida International), Texas Tech (ceiling: New Mexico, I guess, floor: Texas), Missouri (ceiling: Miami, floor: SDSU), and Kansas State (ceiling: UCLA, floor: UCF).  While the three powers are still likely the conference favorites, this will likely not be one of those years where all the results make sense.  Texas might beat Nebraska and lose to Kansas State.  A&M might beat Oklahoma and lose to Baylor.  Mizzou might beat A&M/Oklahoma/Nebraska and lose to Iowa State.  Just know that Mizzou is not the only team that has been schizophrenic so far, and their overall body of work is still as solid as most in the league.  Bring on October.

Recaps

Running Wild

Other

  • The Trib: Missouri eases into bye week
  • The Trib: Franklin's skills stay under wraps

    If Franklin didn’t count Pinkel’s unusual display of respect for Miami among his day’s frustrations, it’s because he is cut from a different fabric.

    Good luck trying to find a more polite or exuberant player. Franklin wears a perpetual smile and peppers his answers with "yes, sir" and "no, sir." Asked about Pinkel’s decision, he replied, "That was the best thing to do."

    "I didn’t want to run up the score or anything. … It’s always fun to open up the offense, but I wasn’t frustrated," he added.

    The frustration instead was left to Missouri’s assistant coaches.

    Pinkel said he exercised veto power in calling four straight sneaks from the 11-yard line with 11 minutes to play. He understood more game action would benefit Franklin — and hoped for Franklin to take a few more shotgun snaps if Missouri got the ball back with enough time — but his hesitance to binge took priority.

    After Franklin’s first sneak, he ran for 4 yards over the next three as MU turned the ball over on downs. Miami took over at its own 2 and scored its first touchdown on a 15-play, 98-yard drive.

    "It’s unusual, but I’m not going to humiliate anybody," Pinkel said. "I’ve been on the other side of the field. I didn’t mean to take a knee. We didn’t kick a field goal. I just chose to do that. Some of my coaches get a little upset with me. I can sense it on the headsets, trust me. But that’s something I believe in doing."

    There was a possible flip side to Pinkel’s thinking if the sneaks were construed as a handout, Missouri’s way of rubbing in Miami’s inability to mount a scrap of defense. But Redhawks Coach Mike Haywood afterward said there were no hard feelings.

    "No, no, I just look at it as Coach Pinkel didn’t want to score," Haywood said. "He didn’t want to run up the score. I thought it was a great thing that he did, a respectful thing in which he did. I compliment him."

  • The Trib: Opportunity knocks
  • The Trib: GAME NOTES
  • Post-Dispatch: Mizzou capitalizes on turnovers
  • Post-Dispatch: Quick score sets up Mizzou's dominant win
  • The Missourian: Missouri football kicker's day marked with highs and lows
  • PowerMizzou: Sunday Grade Card
  • PowerMizzou: By the numbers
  • The Missourian: The story behind (and beside) the Missouri football cannon

Multimedia

Two bonus thoughts:

  1. I know that as fans, we get annoyed when Mizzou goes out of their way not to score when they're already up big.  We love those big numbers.  But this is Gary Pinkel.  This is who he has always been, and it is who he will always be.  We know this.  James Franklin didn't have a problem with being denied a chance to score a touchdown, and in the end, neither should we.  (And to the fans in our section who stomped off after Franklin's QB sneaks because we'd "given up" -- and then challenged The Beef's fan bonafides after he gave you a pretty good dig -- this team and this staff clearly do not make you happy, and they probably never will again. You should probably find better things on which to spend your money and/or give your tickets to people who will enjoy themselves.)

  2. It was great to see that many members of the 1960 team showing up, especially Danny LaRose, Norris Stevenson and Norm Beal.
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