Mizzou Beats Illinois: Links and Reflections

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 4: Brad Madison #57 and Will Ebner #32 both of the University of Missouri Tigers celebrate a sack against the University of Illinois Fighting Illini during the State Farm Arch Rivalry game on September 4 2010 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Fighting Illini 23-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Name that tune...

1. No Alarms and No Surprises, Please

Recent turmoil aside, I had one major reason for thinking Illinois might hang around a while in this game: the element of surprise.

While Illinois will likely struggle overall in 2010, they will have the element of surprise on their side the morning of September 4.  Mizzou recruited Scheelhaase and probably has a decent idea of his skill set, but with a new offensive coordinator (one whose work last year was almost unscoutable, considering it came with a completely different type of quarterback), new quarterback, and mostly unknown receivers, Mizzou will have little clue what will be thrown at them.  The element of surprise could be worth at least 10-14 points.

It probably goes without saying that Mizzou coaches had no way of knowing that Illinois was going to come out in basically a pistol-with-fullback formation, and it had them confounded for much of the first half.  We'll dive into the numbers on Tuesday, but suffice it to say, those who complain about Gary Pinkel's inability to make second-half adjustments might need to find a new narrative.  Mizzou has five comeback wins in their last 15 games, and as they got a handle on what Illinois was trying to do, they shut Illinois down.

I've made it clear in the past that I don't really believe in the concept of "second-half adjustments" (adjustments happen all game long, not just in the 15-20 minutes of halftime), but in the case of this game, where Mizzou coaches probably needed that locker room time to make sure the defense was all on the same page regarding how they would attack the Illinois offense, the term really applied.  The Illini's first nine carries of the second half generated just 12 yards (and that doesn't include an Aldon Smith sack), and only two second-half carries generated more than five yards.  The element of surprise (along with a couple of, um, shaky calls) was worth 13 first-half points, but Mizzou made Scheelhaase pass in the second half, and to say the least, it worked out to their advantage.  Scheelhaase was 4-for-15 for 42 yards and two INTs after halftime.

2. I've Got Those Hap-Hap-Happy Feet

Blaine Gabbert has the pocket presence of a guy with a terrible offensive line.  It still seems like he checks his first two options and, if they are covered, he panics and tucks the ball to run.  Illinois was getting decent pressure in the first half, but as often as not, the pressure came when Gabbert fled the pocket.  The passes he made were smart and accurate, and he improved in the second half, but his instincts before the pass still need work.  It was his biggest weakness last season, and thus far, it is the same early this season.

3. The Test Is Over

All August, Dave Matter, Gabe Dearmond, etc., were telling anybody who would listen that T.J. Moe and, to a slightly lesser extent, Michael Egnew, were going to have a huge season.  I told friends that while I tend to believe what Matter et al tell me, I needed to see with my own eyes that Moe wasn't going to suffer a killer drop or two.  In my small sample size seeing Moe play (last year's Illinois and Furman games, this year's B&G game), he had at least one drop every time, and I couldn't shake the resulting paranoia.

Yeah, I'm officially no longer paranoid about Moe's hands.  He was the perfect possession receiver today, and while the receiving corps' overall speed is less than we are used to (Wes Kemp had a reception-and-cutback in the first quarter that Danario Alexander, Jeremy Maclin, etc., would have taken to the house; he was tripped up from behind), we've got a couple of outstanding third-down weapons in Moe and Egnew.  They combined for a rather ridiculous 23 catches and 161 yards.  It was amazing watching Moe get right to the first-down marker (exactly five yards on 3rd-and-5, etc.).  We've missed that.  As Jerrell Jackson heals (he looked good in limited exposure), I think we will find that Mizzou has a handful of solid weapons.  The explosiveness might be less than what we are accustomed to seeing, but the efficiency might be much improved.

Now we just need as much confidence on 3rd-and-3 as we have on 3rd-and-5 or 3rd-and-7.

Speaking of tests, the running backs more-or-less passed theirs as well.  It didn't start well, but in the end Kendial Lawrence, De'Vion Moore and Henry Josey combined for 115 yards on 24 carries (4.8 per carry).  Maybe Derrick Washington does a little better than that ... but not much better.  Moore was the best of the bunch -- he ran much more fluid than Lawrence -- but I definitely want to see what Josey can do in the coming weeks.  His one touch (a 10-yard run) was enticing.

4. I Believe in You

Just remember who has always been driving The Carl Gettis Treatment™'s bandwagon.

(Though I'm still ready for somebody to beat him out for the punt return job. He once again came up gimpy after a return. His injuries hurt Mizzou almost as much as Gabbert's last season.)

5. Kick It In Second Wind

In the first half, the linebackers looked lost to me.  Illinois' one touchdown was the result of a cornerback blitz from Gettis; A.J. Jenkins was left free to roam across the middle, and nobody even came close to picking him up.  The underneath pass was the only one Scheelhaase was able to consistently complete (at least in the first 30 minutes), and the linebackers appeared to be the primary culprits for that.  But by the end of the game, Zaviar Gooden had begun to make plays, and Andrew Gachkar made a huge pass breakup in the fourth quarter.

More analysis coming this week.  But now ... links!

We win!

Moe

Second-Half Team

Big 'D'

Multimedia

And by the way, to Mac Engel, author of the "Gary Pinkel Needs to Stop Taking Stupid Pills" post on the Dallas Morning News college sports blog, try putting down the Dickish pills and picking up the Professional pills.  I'm sure you said the exact same thing about Mack Brown when Colt McCoy was taking hits on short gains, right?

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