A Few Thoughts on MU at OU

I have a feeling this post will read like blatant homerism. I will apologize for that up front because that's not my intent. Plenty went wrong in Norman last night. Nevertheless, that 10 point loss does not have a simple, straightforward narrative. OU is clearly better, but that has far more to do with their game experience than any overall talent differential. Put it this way, I wouldn't trade our roster for their's and they have a legit shot at a title game.

The Good

1. Franklin: Here's what you need to take away. On the road. Number one team. And you know what? The game wasn't too big for him. That is major, people. Major. Franklin was not outstanding, but he was plenty good. Consider this. Venables looked to deny Franklin easy, underneath passes that would help him stay in rhythm. Essentially, his 4 for 20 rough patch in the middle two quarters was the real difference in the game. But look at the throws Franklin was asked to make. They weren't screens and check downs. They were intermediate passes into coverage. That is a daunting task for any QB, and I'll be damned if the kid wasn't competitive for most of the game throw for throw with Jones. Some of that 4-20 was Venables beating our protection schemes, well-defended passes, and our WRs not making available plays. Franklin threw very few outright poor passes.

2. The running game: Note to the Fox broadcasters. When Franklin keeps the ball on the read, it's part of the running game. This notion that Yost "got away" from the running game simply isn't true. Missouri ran the ball often and effectively. Oh, and how long has it been since Missouri could effectively run at least some option? Somewhere up in Buffalo Brad Smith smiled.

3. The secondary: Note to assorted media hordes in search of a cheap meme -- good pass offenses coach WRs to turn their heads to the QB early in their routes versus man coverage for two reasons. 1)  To keep DBs from timing and locating incoming passes. 2) To make late adjustments to short/back shoulder throws. So while you are on your way to bludgeon our inexperienced secondary, please consider these actual improvements over the ASU game. (Note: did you see ASU bust out the whoopin' stick on 'SC? Take it from a life-long Seahawks fan, Dennis Erickson-coached teams might be undisciplined and schizophrenic but they are potent.) We didn't see blown assignments with people running free in the secondary. We got hands on balls and pulled them in. A more pressing issue for us than TURN YOUR HEAD AROUND!!! is that we are asking our LBs to cover a lot, and we are getting hurt on check downs and screens. 

4. Steck: He's never gonna blitz like Dick LeBeau but he's shown more man looks and generally been more flexible in his approach than I anticipated. He's coaching to the talent. He recognized that OU is gonna get yards and points at home. On defense, what you're trying to get them off schedule on a handful of their drives--get a turnover, force a few punts.  We did that. We needed the offense to be a lot more efficient, at least with field position much less scoring points. A missed FG in the 40-49 yard range is one of the worst possible offensive outcomes short of a turnover. We had two. 

5. Ressell: Is it just me, or has he quietly improved his distance/height on kickoffs? Missouri seems to favor that coffin corner kickoff sometimes, and we don't always cover it well, but Ressell is getting his standard shots consistently into the end zone. That may be where kickers provide most of their value. 

The Bad

1. Ressel's slump: Kickers hit slumps. You miss a big one. You start to overcompensate. Then, you overcompensate in the opposite direction. Nobody likes randomness as the explanation, but that's all this is. 40+ yard field goals are not chip shots, and we have almost been spoiled into believing they are. Mizzou is long overdue for a run of missed kicks. (I have been saving that speech since 2008.) 

2. Pass Rush: The D line was stout against the run, really excepting one drive each half. On the whole, people should understand that against OU's offense no garden-variety four man rush is gonna bother Jones. He's getting the ball out before the line can really get involved. To bother him you must attack OU's protection schemes to get pressure in Jones' face--NOT off the edges. That was my one issue with Steck last night. Nothing in Jones' face. Some people are labeling this D line a disappointment. (I'm looking at you Gabe.) Those people are not making adjustments for a schedule frontloaded with quality offenses on the road. Don't sleep. This group projects to be outstanding. It's not any kind of disappointment. This defensive front is dominating weak opponents, which is usually the most diagnostic information.

3. The secondary: Taken in context, our secondary is playing fine. But, to beat a #1 team at their place the secondary must make more plays. OU's secondary broke up a number of well-thrown pass attempts from Franklin in zone coverage. We had some nice stretches where we forced punts. We need more.

4.The WRs: Ditto the WRs. They didn't play poorly, but two things became apparent: 1) we need to get better at catching the ball in traffic, and 2) we need more guys on the field who can take the top off the defense. And frankly, we need to see more--much more--from Egnew, Kemp, and Jackson. Right now, I honestly don't see why the latter two get so much burn relative to the young guys. There, I said it. 

5. The return game: I love you TJ, and I love that I trust you to catch every ball. But you led me to believe that you were more explosive than Gettis in the return game. Uhh... I'm not seeing it.  

6. Pass protection: This was more "meh" than bad. Blockers rarely got outright beat. It's more that Venables attacks protection schemes (whereas Steck asks his guys to beat their man) and Franklin often rolled into pressure instead of stepping up into the pocket. That's by design. Historically, Pinkel/Yost have asked QBs to fade back and roll out of the pocket rather than step up in order to break down your coverage. Venables (and later, the Flying Pelinimonsters) counters by blitzing to the QB's roll point. After going through this routine since the Chase Daniel years, I finally saw Franklin to step into the pocket in second half. He took a sack and he took a terrible intentional grounding flag. But, I'm thankful for small things. I'll just leave it at that.

The Ugly

Nothing here really. 

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