We live in a sports culture that demands satisfaction and justice at all times. If your team lost, it must be somebody's fault, and that somebody must pay. And because of that, we get people saying things like "One year Mizzou will decide to recruit secondary. Until then we well (sic) always be a pretender" on Twitter one year after Missouri fielded the No. 6 pass defense in the country, or we deal with plenty of Internet folks once again deciding that Gary Pinkel is a terrible game coach, and Mizzou will never get over the hump (whatever the hump is at this point, since it's clearly not "Reaching No. 1 in the country" or "Winning 40 games in four years") because of it. And of course we have to figure out how to blame David Yost as well. Memes never die, they just disappear until your next loss, then reappear as if you never won.
All that said ... we know this, and none of it is a surprise. If we don't seek out opinions we know we'll disagree with, we'll end up much more sane.
MUtigers.com: Tigers Drop 37-30 OT Heartbreaker
The Trib: Missouri sees another game slip away in the desert
The Missourian: Franklin shines, but not bright enough in Missouri football loss
KC Star: No. 21 Missouri falls to Arizona State 37-30 in OT
KC Star: MU game report | Arizona State 37, No. 21 Missouri 30 (OT)
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou rallies but falls 37-30 in OT
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou finds good and bad in OT loss
PowerMizzou: Missouri comes up short
PowerMizzou: Saturday Grade Card
Pinkel Didn't Freeze His Damn Kicker
I was starting to go crazy yesterday, not because people were questioning Gary Pinkel's decision to call two timeouts before Grant Ressel's attempted game-winning field goal -- there is plenty of reason to question that if you are so inclined, not least of which because it didn't work -- but because people kept insisting on framing it as "I don't know what he was trying to do there ... was he trying to ice his own kicker (yuk yuk yuk)??" Random Student On Television did it on last night's KOMU news, approximately 20 hours after Pinkel explained exactly why he did it. Question the logic, but there was indeed logic.
The strategy, Pinkel said, essentially was to get closer for Ressel, who had hit a 47-yarder earlier but had missed from 54 and was at the outer limit of his reliable range. Winds were gusting, too, Pinkel said.
"We tried to get five more yards," Pinkel said. "They were jumping, (Vontaze Burfict) was jumping all over and blowing our guard up and timing it and going every time. And we thought just maybe we could get him to jump offsides and we'd have gotten the first down."
Honestly, the more I thought about that strategy, the more I liked it. Burfict committed almost as many penalties as he did tackles, and as we saw when the kick actually took place, five extra yards would have made a huge difference. Plus, as has been proven, "icing the kicker" really doesn't work. And if Ressel was standing out there, knowing that he wasn't about to kick the ball, then there's very little downside to the strategy. That he missed the kick isn't really the point -- his last field goal also came out spinning sideways, but it held straight enough to go through the uprights. This one hooked a little too much.
But there are still two questions I had:
1) Why do it twice? Attempting it once was actually semi-brilliant. Not only would you get five extra yards if it worked, but with an extra timeout in your pocket and 17 seconds left, you could attempt one more play if you wanted to. James Franklin's last two rushes had gone for 15 yards, and one more carry might, in theory, generate a few more. The second time, the only possible value is a five-yard penalty, and while there is purpose to that, there isn't nearly as much.
2) Did you suddenly throw twice at the end with the sole purpose of preserving the timeouts? Because I'm not sure I like the timeout strategy that much. Three rushes had generated 54 yards on the drive -- ASU's line was tired and on its heels. And the first pass made some sense -- it might have caught ASU off-guard, plus if Michael Egnew comes down with the pass, you're looking at a chip shot field goal. The second pass, however, was unnecessary and extremely dangerous. Franklin tried to find Wes Kemp on a very short route, and it was almost picked off. If you're going to go short, just run the damn ball, call a timeout, and decide whether to still do the timeout-on-FG thing or not. I want an explanation for the second pass attempt MUCH more than I want yet another explanation of the timeouts.
Crash Course For The DBs
At some point during the summer, I found myself a smidge wary of the secondary. With the way Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines looked at the end of last season, it was easy to get optimistic, but still, three lost starters in the secondary are still three lost starters. That was the one area of the defense where we could end up feeling silly for not being worried about it in advanced.
After seeing what Arizona State -- Aaron Pflugrad (8 targets, 8 catches, 180 yards, 2 TD) in particular -- did to the secondary, we know that there is indeed some work to be done here. Kip Edwards needs to get healthy (he did NOT look full-speed ... not even close), and my goodness, does E.J. Gaines need to find some ball skills on eBay. I'm not sure I've ever seen somebody with a bigger gap between his cover skills (brilliant) and his ball skills (nonexistent). Pflugrad's second touchdown happened despite the fact that Gaines had him blanketed and didn't fall for the trick play at all; when Gaines looked back for the ball, he not only didn't see it, but he also all but stopped running. Pflugrad did see the ball, and went and got it. Hobson's ball skills also came into question when he broke up a pass on third-and-long but still got called for pass interference because he didn't turn to look for the ball. Making sure your man isn't open is only part of playing corner. Luckily, we're only two games into the season. And in Gaines' case, there are at least 34 games remaining in his career. He's going to be a good one. What we've learned in his first two starts is simply that he's not exactly perfect yet.
We've also learned that the communication between corners and safeties needs to improve rather quickly. It makes sense that this would be an issue with so many new starters, but still ... it's an issue.
(This says nothing of the fact that Missouri really got no pass rush whatsoever either. That didn't do the secondary any favors. ASU's constant play fakes and motion kept Mizzou on their heels, and power to them for that.)
Hey, Uh, James Franklin's Pretty Good
"We already knew it," receiver T.J. Moe told reporters. "You’re the ones who didn’t know it."
Sophomore James Franklin’s second career start wasn’t perfect. He missed some throws downfield. He didn’t see some wide-open receivers. His offense converted only 3 of 15 third downs. Five possessions picked up fewer than 10 yards. And on his last two drives with the game on the line, Franklin failed to deliver points.
But considering everything that went wrong for the Tigers (1-1) in the desert — did they forget to pack the defense? — and considering how shaky Franklin looked six days earlier against Miami (Ohio), his performance Friday inspired hope for the future, especially from within.
"We got the experience of playing in an environment that we’ll probably see a few times this year," Franklin said after producing 403 yards of total offense (84 rushing, 319 passing) and three touchdowns against one of the Pac-12’s better defenses. "Getting this out of the way early, especially when we were down 14 and knowing we were able to come back and tie it up, that’s really encouraging. All the guys did a great job focusing on the here and now and not worrying about the crowd of anything … just making plays."
Obviously it's worrisome for Franklin to be taking this many hits when a) his backups are less than inspiring, and b) there are no backup running backs either, but ... his run-pass abilities were on display Friday night. And once again, we learned that he is a wonderfully accurate downfield passer. He does, however, need to work on the fade routes a little. Or better yet, we should maybe not call as many of them.
Hey, Uh, Henry Josey's Pretty Good
As somebody pointed out in one of the 3,000 or so comments from Friday night, Henry Josey must not practice very well because in terms of on-field performance, he's been No. 1 or close to it for a while. But he came out of fall practices No. 3 on the depth chart. Injury, however, leads to opportunity, and Josey has all the opportunity he could possibly want now, and so far, so good. Well, that's if you consider "nine carries for 94 yards, two catches for 51 yards" good. Personally, I think it's great. He is fast, quick and elusive.
I'm very curious about Missouri's gameplan for this coming Saturday evening against Western Illinois. Typically you might not throw a lot in (assumed) blowouts, but unless Mizzou is prepared to give Greg White and Jared Culver about 30 touches, the short passing might be a lot better for Mizzou's health.
(Speaking of which ... hello there, Jared Culver. You had a HUGE fumble recovery and a nice reception on what was almost the game-winning drive. And you look so much like Zack Abron that seeing you on the field always makes me happy. Apparently we're about to see a whole lot more of you with Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore both out for a few weeks.)
Behind Enemy Lines
House Of Sparky: Aaron Pflugrad Sparked Sun Devils Time And Again In ASU's 37-30 OT Win Over Tigers
House Of Sparky: The Great, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
AZcentral.com: ASU football overcomes No. 21 Missouri in overtime
AZcentral.com: ASU football finally breaks through on a national stage
AZcentral.com: Aaron Pflugrad has career receiving night for ASU football
This really was a huge game for Arizona State, and they treated it as such. For Mizzou to withstand a crazy crowd and an absolutely insane number of injuries and come back from double-digits down to almost win says something about this team, even though Missouri has come too far to find moral victories in losses to unranked teams.