Photo via Bill Carter.
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So I guess we should revisit this game eventually, huh? The Old Dominion game and January 1 allowed me to stall for a while, but it's time to pick the scab.
Iowa 27, Mizzou 24
|Close %||100.0%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Field Position %||48.8%||41.1%||Success Rate||56.7%||46.8%|
|Close Success Rate||52.3%||44.6%||Success Rate||42.3%||33.3%|
|Close Success Rate||44.4%||42.9%||Turnover Pts||15.7||8.0|
|Close PPP||0.34||0.40||Turnover Pts Margin||-7.7||+7.7|
|Line Yards/carry||2.57||3.57||Q1 S&P||0.775||1.021|
|Close Success Rate||55.9%||47.6%|
|Close PPP||0.27||0.42||1st Down S&P||0.732||0.713|
|Close S&P||0.827||0.892||2nd Down S&P||1.060||0.783|
|SD/PD Sack Rate||5.6% / 0.0%||0.0% / 0.0%||3rd Down S&P||0.621||1.310|
|Projected Pt. Margin: Iowa +5.4 | Actual Pt. Margin: Iowa +3|
So basically, this game was decided by the fact that Missouri's two interceptions were more costly than Iowa's. Iowa was more explosive -- five plays of 35 yards or more -- and Missouri far more efficient. Iowa controlled the first half, Missouri the second ... and the magnitude of the four picks settled the whole thing.
I'm So Excited, I'm So Excited, I'm So ... Scared
I've never been so optimistic about a Blaine Gabbert-led 2011 Missouri offense as I was late-Tuesday night, even after the atrocious pick six. The Missouri offensive line allowed two sacks in 59 pass attempts (a 3.3% sack rate) despite going against an Iowa defensive line that was one of the two or three best Mizzou faced in 2010, and they averaged 4.23 line yards per carry on runs by Mizzou running backs. Aside from maybe the Oklahoma game, it was the best performance all season from the offensive line ... and even with the loss of Tim Barnes, the line returns well over 100 career starts and will be possibly the most experienced line in the country next year. Every receiving target returns, as does every running back. The quarterback too ... right? Ri ... right?
Okay, so this is a bit dramatic. I had to take advantage of a rare opportunity to reference this clip, one of the capstones of my young-adult life. Even if Blaine Gabbert doesn't return, choosing instead to make sure that Missouri has a third straight year with at least one first-round pick in the NFL draft, there is plenty to be excited about with James Franklin. I will have just as much hope for 2011 with Franklin as with Gabbert, but I'll have a little less optimism ... if that makes sense. The ceiling could be just as high with Franklin, but the certainty will be lower. We know what Gabbert brings to the table: a whole lot.
Iowa's non-blitzing, zone-heavy defense was tailor-made for Gabbert success ... but still. This defense was among the best in the country on passing downs, and Gabbert was as good as he's ever been in those situations. On passing downs (2nd-and-7 or more, 3rd- or 4th-and-5 or more), he was 14-for-23 passing for 164 yards. He found Jerrell Jackson four times for 57 yards, and T.J. Moe five times for 60 yards, but he still managed to find four other receivers at least once too. His reads were never more confident, his passes rarely more accurate. If he had thrown one specific pass out of bounds, and thrown another specific pass about a foot to his left, it would have been a virtually perfect quarterbacking performance. For those who still dislike him or try to discount this ridiculously good performance (one pass aside), either by Gabbert or David Yost, I just don't know what to tell you. Quarterbacks don't pass for 400 yards against Iowa. Teams don't gain 500 yards against Iowa. They just don't. And Missouri did. And to the idiots that pummeled Gabbert on Twitter after the game (including the one who called his girlfriend a tranny) ... you make me really, really sad.
Snake Pits and Lucifer Burns/Can't Take the Strength I've Earned and Learned
Tell me again why I should spend so much time previewing these games? If there was one thing that seemed absolutely certain, it was that Iowa had the power advantage, Mizzou the explosiveness/open-field advantage. Instead, Mizzou's lines acquitted themselves quite well ... but Iowa beat them with big plays.
Redzone S&P: Mizzou 0.956, Iowa 0.522
Shorter-Yardage (four yards or fewer to go) Success Rate: Mizzou 71.4%, Iowa 63.6.
Now, we know that Mizzou's defensive line could have done much, much better -- the pass rush was non-existent without the blitz, Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith and Michael Sam combined for 1.5 tackles, and even though I pinned more blame on the LBs and DBs for these runs, Marcus Coker did still rip off runs 62 and 35 yards. But Mizzou's defensive line performed as well as Iowa's for the most part, and it kept them in the game; plus, this really was the best Mizzou defensive line in a long, long time.
And again, almost everybody returns. There are 18 men on the two-deep for the offensive and defensive lines; depending on Aldon Smith's draft decision, either 16 or 17 will return in 2011. And Dominique Hamilton gets healthy. And Sheldon Richardson comes to town. Next year, Mizzou will be as well-seasoned, talented and nasty in the trenches as they have been since the 1960s.
Curtis Mayfield - Do Do Wap Is Strong In Here
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The Boundaries of Language I Quietly Cursed/And All the Different Names for the Same Thing
Standard Downs Run-Pass Ratio: Mizzou 40.0% Run, Iowa 70.2% Run
Passing Downs Run-Pass Ratio: Mizzou 11.5% Run, Iowa 22.2% Run
Lots of different ways to play football, huh? Iowa took fewer chances and ran a ton, yet made more big plays. Mizzou went to more extremes (more negative plays, more positive plays) and threw a ton, yet was the more efficient team. I do love this sport.
Your Appearance Don't Hold No Class/You Know the Chase is Better Than the Catch
Okay, it was a reach to continue with the song theme with this one ... let's just say there aren't many songs with the words "target" or "catch" in them, even on my iPod. It was either this or Spoon's "Don't Make Me a Target."
Then again, I feel no reason to apologize for a little Motorhead.
Anyway, here is your targets-and-catches data.
|Player||Targets||Catches||Catch%||Target%||Rec. Yds.||Yds. Per Target|
It's pretty easy to target at least nine guys when you're throwing almost sixty passes, but it was still nice to see the variety here, especially since (again) everybody returns next year. Three things here:
1. Blaine Gabbert threw 17 passes at T.J. Moe, and he caught 15 ... and came as close as possible to catching 16 without actually doing so. That's incredible. Just judging by what I've read on Twitter and from columnists, Gabbert-to-Moe will be one of the more notable, well-known combinations in the country if, again, Gabs returns next year. If he doesn't, Moe will obviously still be an incredible weapon, even if everybody writes Mizzou off (and you know they will).
2. I've been as hard as anybody on Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson for their drops over the last two years. And to be sure, the next time Wes Kemp drops a pass, I've already got "Oh, you can make that diving catch against Iowa, but you dropped that?" cued up and ready. But I just cannot fault Jackson for his "drop" that resulted in the first interception. I'm all for saying that if you get your hands on the pass, you should bring it in ... but that was excellent coverage, and there was basically an Iowa hand in between his. The pass was behind him, and it left him with little chance for success. I've seen it called a "drop" just about everywhere ... but that was simply an iffy, well-covered pass to me.
3. How exactly does the pass distribution work next year? Moe and Egnew have done nothing to earn fewer targets, and Jackson and Egnew will be seniors ... but Marcus Lucas, Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser are lurking, and if practice reports are to be believed, they will give the starting quarterback no choice but to target them too. And then there are Gahn McGaffie, Brandon Gerau, Jaleel Clark, Kerwin Stricker, and some tight ends too. And it's not like the runners have done anything to discourage Yost from calling as many or more running plays. I'm really, really curious about this ... though I should shut up about it now since, call me crazy, we'll be talking plenty about this in the upcoming Walkthrough series and, therefore, the 2011 Missouri Football Preview.
I'm a Negative Creep, and I'm Stoned
This is a pretty positive post, and it was intended to be, but I was obviously not without complaint/concern on Tuesday. The bullet points:
- Kickoffs hurt Mizzou yet again. Iowa's starting field position after kickoffs: their 29. Mizzou's: their 19. Ten yards can, over time, make a significant difference. If Mizzou's final drive had started ten yards further upfield, for example, they would have been just inside Grant Ressel's field goal range, and they might not have had to go for it at all.
- We're going to miss Kevin Rutland, Jarrell Harrison, and Carl Gettis. It is really easy to get excited about the incredible experience Mizzou is going to possess in 2011, with or without Gabbert and Smith. But the secondary does get hit pretty hard by attrition. Gettis had a forgettable final game, but Rutland and Harrison were potentially the two Tigers most responsible for Mizzou's second-half defensive improvement. Each of them picked off a pass, and each almost had a second. Mizzou had to send more guys to get pressure on Stanzi, and that required improved play from the secondary. Well ... the secondary improved. One has to wonder the damage that the departures of these three seniors (no point in counting the fourth senior, Jasper Simmons) will do. To be sure, corners Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines have gotten quite a bit of solid experience, as have safeties Kenji Jackson (who looked fantastic on Tuesday), Matt White and Tavon Bolden. But to maintain Mizzou's overall level of defensive play in 2011, some players will have to prove more than they have to date. Nothing says they can't, but looking at the returning (and incoming) personnel, it does appear likely that Mizzou's run defense will improve next year, and the pass defense will regress.
- I'm going to miss Matt Grabner. I've seen nothing from Trey Barrow that suggests he won't be every bit as good as Matt Grabner ... but wow was this kid an underrated weapon this season. I've never seen a guy so adept at pinning punts inside the 10 ... hell, inside the 5.
- Blaine Gabbert needs more reps. Aside from the slightly inaccurate pass to Jackson in the end zone, the only mistakes Blaine Gabbert made, really, were when his options were covered and he had to improvise, and his instincts failed him. He ran himself into a sack and seemed incapable of throwing the ball away, even when it meant lost yardage or, of course, a pick six. This is interesting considering this is the same quarterback who saved Mizzou's backside by throwing the ball away a few times against Nebraska. His confidence level has never been higher than it was against Iowa, and that "I can make a play here" attitude backfired a few times. In all, that is the remaining aspect of #11's game in need of improvement. You cannot throw footballs better than Gabbert does (though the deep sideline routes could still use improvement), but if Gabbert comes back, that off-the-cuff decision making is what will need the most work. Pretty sure that's what we said heading into 2010, too, and while it improved ... it could improve more.
I think I look at bowl games in a much more different way than most people. The extra win is nice, and trust me, I was absolutely looking forward to an 11-2 final record and a potential Top 10 finish. Saying Pinkel has finished in the Top 10 twice would have been fantastic.
But really, most of my impressions of a given season have already been well-established pre-bowl. All I really want from a bowl is a) to feel like my team acquitted themselves just fine on national television, and b) reason to feel good about next season. In that way, I was almost completely satisfied with Tuesday's effort. I was absolutely disappointed in the result, and it took me a while to go to sleep Tuesday night thinking about all the plays that could have changed Mizzou's fortunes. But a) in a game in which Mizzou was favored by three, they led by four until the pick six and might have won by the same margin had somebody managed to bring Micah Hyde down (or if holding had been called on whoever fish-hooked Kendial Lawrence). In other words, this was in no way an egg-laying ... which I realize is news to Mizzou fans who expect to win every game by 35. And b) with as good as Mizzou's offensive line and receivers looked, it is difficult not to get excited about Mizzou's prospects for 2011, even in the worst-case scenario that sees Gabbert and Aldon Smith both heading to the NFL.
I mentioned after the game on Tuesday, that I was annoyed with the "Same old Mizzou" reaction from fans, and I explained it then as well as I could.
There is nothing "same old" about Missouri at this point. We’re top 10 in basketball and going to finish top 20 in football. We talk about raising expectations and hoping for more, and that’s fine … but we can’t do that if we fall back on the same "We’re poor, tortured Missouri fans" every time there’s a tough loss. Every team in the country suffers tough losses. We’re no different. We can feel sorry for ourselves tonight, but there are only a few programs in the country in better long-term shape than Missouri right now, and there is absolutely nothing "same old" about that. The "Same old" Mizzou would have gone 5-7.
I know Iowa was 7-5, and I know that Mizzou made a couple of horrendous mistakes. I know how good an 11th win and Top 10 ranking would have felt. But as the calendar shifts to 2011, it has never felt better to be a Mizzou fan. In both football and basketball (and most minor sports), Mizzou has a coach they can be proud of, a program they can be proud of, and a ton of exciting youth about which they can get excited. Any loss is super-annoying when you're losing less and less, and hopefully we don't experience this feeling at all in 2011.