Mizzou Beats Miami (Ohio): A Diary

Photo via Bill Carter. Of course.

It was not the most memorable of season openers, but Mizzou is 1-0 for the tenth straight year. Shall we relive it?

11:00 - We're looking live ... at a game at Faurot Field ... and I'm at home (tending to the three-day old and wife). This feels really weird. Do not expect it to happen again.

11:02 - It turns out Miami receiver Nick Harwell is suspended for the game. That hurts the Redhawks; coming into this game, he was by far the most proven, dangerous skill position player they had (as I'm sure you read in the BTBS preview).

11:03 - We meet again, Dave Lapham. Fun fact: I was offered an opportunity to interview Lapham earlier in the week, but for very obvious reasons I was unable to do it. It's just as well; I don't want to like Mr. Lapham, and I'm sure I would if I actually spoke with him. As I've said before, he comes across as the cheesy grandpa whose jokes make his grandkids roll their eyes. Luckily the decision was made for me.

11:08 - In the studio, Marcus Allen (!) calls Michael Egnew the best tight end in college football. My stats disagree, but ... screw stats! What have stats ever done for us, anyway, you big, dumb nerd??

11:09 - Miami wins the toss and defers, meaning, for what I think is the 1,734th consecutive game, Missouri will receive the opening kickoff. It looks like a really nice crowd on television, but apparently there are under 59,000 in attendance, which is a little disappointing. I guess a lot of fans had kids this week?

FIRST QUARTER

11:11 - Miami opens with a squib kick for some reason, and Brayden Burnett returns it to the Mizzou 40. If you had bet "Brayden Burnett will return the opening kickoff of the season for Missouri," I'm pretty sure you would have broken Bodog.com.

11:14 - Missouri's opening drive starts promisingly, with a nine-yard James Franklin keeper, but it fizzles out immediately. A hesitant Kendial Lawrence loses four yards, and Franklin throws low for T.J. Moe. The downside of a nuclear pace: Mizzou's punting game is on the field one minute into the game. Trey Barrow's punt checks up at the one, but it cross the plane of the end zone before it can be downed. I've got to be honest: I've been a college football nerd for three decades, and I had no idea this was a rule. I thought it was all fair game until it actually landed in the end zone. C'est la vie.

11:23 - Miami's offensive gameplan is obvious quickly: roll away from the pressure. On the first snap, Zac Dysert rolls right and finds Andy Cruse for 14 yards. On the second snap, he rolls left and finds David Frazier for 16. After a short run and another quick-hitter to Kruse, Will Ebner and Terrell Resonno stuff Erik Finklea for no gain on third-and-1. Finklea produces five yards on fourth down, however, and Miami's drive continues at the Mizzou 36. Then, the second piece of Miami's gameplan emerges: throw fades to receivers covered by non-corners to (presumably) test their ball skills. After Trey Hobson obliterates Dawan Scott on a reverse, Dysert just overshoots Orne Bey (covered by Will Ebner) on one fade; then, Matt White offers good coverage on a fade to Chris Givens. Miami has to settle for a field goal attempt. It is so far wide left that it almost lands in the alumni section. Awful. Miami ate five minutes off of the clock, but it's still 0-0.

11:32 - Handshakes all around! Mizzou's first touchdown drive of the season is smooth and efficient. Over 11 plays, Mizzou faces only one third down. Franklin finds Michael Egnew for five yards and breaks off runs of 13 and 17 to advance into Miami territory. Two touches for De'Vion Moore generate 24 more yards, then two passes to T.J. Moe generate 10. On third-and-goal from the 5, Franklin scoots in up the middle, and it's 7-0 Mizzou. Franklin on the drive: four carries for 44 yards, 4-for-5 passing for 30 yards.

11:37 - After Andrew Wilson obliterates poor Brison Burris on the ensuing kickoff, we go to commercial, where Sheryl Crow doesn't say "Z-O-U ... forever" nearly seductively enough. The former education major gets a B-.

11:47 - Miami's second drive flips the field again. Two quick sideline passes to Chris Givens generate 23 yards (Hey, Dave Lapham: not every sideline pass is a bubble screen), then a quick pitch to Finklea gets another nine. Miami is getting yards on the outside, which is disconcerting and, for one brief, painful millisecond, reminds me of the 2008 Missouri-Kansas game. Yet another sideline pass to Givens gets 14 yards with no cornerback in sight, and Miami is quickly to the Mizzou 36. Luckily, Dominique Hamilton is on the field for Missouri. He stuffs an up-the-middle run (Will Ebner is rolled up and sprains his ankle), and on third-and-8 from the 34, Matt White and Kony Ealy (or as Bill Land calls him, Ealy Kony) eat up a screen. Beautiful. Anything that isn't a quick hitter is a no-go for the Redhawks, and their punt is downed at the Mizzou 4. Henry Josey's first touch goes for three yards, and we're done with the first quarter.

SECOND QUARTER

11:53 - A nice Josey run gets Mizzou to their 20, but the drive quickly stalls after Franklin scrambles out of bounds for a one-yard loss, finds Moe for just three on a well-covered screen, then, in the face of a bit of pressure, forgets his footwork and bombs the ball out of bounds in Marcus Lucas' direction. Fortunately, Mizzou has Trey Barrow. He bombs a 57-yard punt, and Miami starts at their own 26.

11:57 - First three-and-out of the season for Mizzou's defense. E.J. Gaines perfectly covers a bomb to Willie Culpepper (though, as Lapham points out, if he had looked for the ball, he'd have had a pick), Finklea drops a pitch and for a four-yard loss, and Jacquies Smith cleans up a draw play to Bey. Zac Murphy's punt goes just 21 yards, and Mizzou starts near midfield.

12:05 - After a quick out to Moe and a handoff to Lawrence generate a first down, Mizzou stalls again when a) Franklin fields a low snap and has to throw the ball away immediately because a Miami lineman came through unchecked (double whammy for the line), b) Lawrence does well to get two yards out of a no-chance run, c) Dan Hoch commits a false start and d) Franklin fires low and short to Wes Kemp. Terrible drive for the Mizzou line. Barrow punts, and it once again almost checks up at the 1 before crossing the plane.

12:09 - Another Miami three-and-out. Dominique Hamilton stuffs another run, Zavier Gooden shuts down a screen pass, and Dysert dumps a third-down screen into the ground. Ealy Ko--er, Kony Ealy almost bulls his blocker into the punter on fourth down, but Murphy gets it off and Moe calls fair catch at the Mizzou 45.

12:19 - Now Missouri builds a cushion midway through the quarter. A handoff to T.J. Moe on the sprint left gets 11 yards, and after a screen to De'Vion Moore goes nowhere (Michael Egnew whiffed on a block), it's time to soften up the middle of the Miami defense. The Missouri guards are evidently working out of a three-point stance this year, and the early indications are solid; up-the-middle running was very strong for the Tigers, as evidenced by the 18 yards Henry Josey generated on two carries. Evan Harris stuffs Franklin on second-and-four from the Miami 20, however, and when Egnew can't quite pull in a Franklin lob (it could have been a couple inches shorter, but I think Egnew should have brought it in, Grant Ressel splits the uprights on a 37-yard field goal. It would have been good from 50+; he booted it like he was offended he was being asked to take such a short kick. Mizzou 10, Miami 0.

12:29 - After Barrow bombs a touchback, Dysert finds his rhythm again. Three consecutive passes to David Frazier generate 26 yards (and some bruises for Frazier, who is hit by Zaviar Gooden on one and crushed by Trey Hobson on another. On the third pass, Mizzou starts to bite on the quick passing, and Dysert finds Frazier downfield for 14 yards. Kenji Jackson breaks up a 2nd-and-5 pass from the Mizzou 49, but on third down, Dysert beautifully avoids Brayden Burnett and Dominique Hamilton and places a pinpoint pass to Chris Givens 25 yards down on the left sideline. Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap; there was nothing wrong with the defense on that play. Hobson roughs up Givens on a two-yard sideline pass, but after a lob to the end zone fails, Matt White commits pass interference on a third-and-8 lob. Again, Miami chose to pick on non-corners when they needed yards. Luckily, a backwards pass to Givens goes awry and loses seven yards, and that signals the end of the drive. On third-and-12, Dysert steps up in the pocket and aims for Scott in the end zone, not seeing that E.J. Gaines had come off of his man and was ready to step in front of the pass. Interception, touchback, still 10-0. 2:18 left in the half.

12:37 - With two minutes to extend their lead, Mizzou falls far short. Franklin scrambles for a first down to the Mizzou 36, but the drive stalls when he overshoots L'Damian Washington on the sideline (L'D made an exaggerated leap for the ball even though it was about 20 feet over his head--I enjoy his theatrics), finds Bud Sasser for just four yards, and misses Moe on third-and-6. He is not throwing confidently or accurately at this point. Luckily, Trey Barrow is Trey Barrow, and his rugby kick bounces and rolls for 52 yards, out at the Miami 8. They keep the ball mostly on the ground and kill the clock. It's 10-0 at halftime.

THIRD QUARTER

1:06 - Miami's best quarter starts with their best special teams play of the game. Dayonne Nunley follows lovely blocking up the right sideline for 32 yards, and Miami starts at the 34. Jacquies Smith stuffs a first-down run by Orne Bey, then Dysert steps up to avoid Brad Madison and is sacked by the Turf Monster. On third-and-13, however, E.J. Gaines is called for pass interference on a right-sideline bomb because, though his positioning was once again perfect, he again didn't look back for the ball. Gaines is one of the most gifted cover men I've seen (and I haven't even seen much of him yet), but his ball skills are holding him back for now. If he ever learns to turn his head with proper timing, he could be an all-conference corner ... whichever conference that is, exactly.

Given second life, Miami does something with it. Andrew Wilson punishes Dysert on a scramble, but on third-and-2 after a short pass to Frazer, Erik Finklea somehow weaves through four Mizzou tacklers for another first down. Quickly, it's third-and-1 again, and after Bey is stuffed up the middle, he tries to get outside and is cut down by Hobson. On fourth-and-3, Dysert pulls a quick kick; the ball bounces straight into Gaines' hands, but he has no idea it was a quick kick and doesn't try to return it. That could have been disastrous, but instead it is just funny. Mizzou starts at their 7.

1:11 - Yikes. After two Kendial Lawrence runs generate just four yards, Franklin makes his worst decision of the game. He tries to find T.J. Moe in bracket coverage, but the ball is easily picked off by Dayonne Nunley. Frank the Tank is struggling.

1:13 - Three plays later, it's 10-6 Mizzou. On third-and-6, Miami tries a quick pitch to Finklea, who gets some pretty blocking and weaves into the end zone. In This Week In Missouri Football, Gary Pinkel claimed that Mizzou had the wrong package on the field for this play, and it quite obviously cost them. The PAT is wide left, however, so Mizzou retains a four-point lead. Still, a pick, a Jacquies Smith injury (on second down) and a Miami touchdown in four plays. Yuck.

1:21 - Franklin's very next pass is almost also picked. He doesn't get enough juice on a long out pass to the left, but it somehow goes through a Miami defender's hands (Nunley again, I believe) and into Wes Kemp's. He turns it into a nine-yard gain, but a few plays later, a holding penalty by Jayson Palmgren will shut the drive down. Franklin can't scramble for a first down on third-and-5, and Barrow punts.

1:30 - It's the biggest drive of the game, and the Mizzou defense stiffens. Andrew Wilson eats up a short pass, but runs by Finklea and Dysert just barely pick up a first down. Terrell Resonno stuffs a Finklea run (I honestly don't know why Miami even tried to run up the middle after a while), and after a false start, Ealy hocks down Bey on a screen pass. He misses the tackle because he was going for a huge hit (and because Bey is about three feet shorter than him), but it was a team picture after that. Ealy is the definition of "crazy athletic and raw" right now. On third-and-13, Brad Madison officially introduces himself to the 2011 season. He tracks down Dysert and forces a punt. Ealy once again almost bulls his blocker into the punter, and then Moe makes a nice outkicked-coverage return to the Miami 42.

1:34 - Another short Franklin pass (this one to Kemp again) goes nowhere, but then we get to see Franklin's strength. Instead of looking to the sideline on second-and-9, he looks vertically and finds a wide open Moe, who gains 28 yards after a busted coverage. He is barely called down at the 13, and after two plays generate just three yards, Mizzou faces a third-and-7 to start the fourth quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER

1:38 - The first play of the fourth quarter represents a huge statement on the part of the coaches. David Yost could have been shaken by Franklin's third-quarter struggles and called either a zone read or a screen of some sort, hoping to make sure Mizzou got at least a field goal out of this drive. Instead, they go for the touchdown. Franklin threads a gorgeous pass to Marcus Lucas in the back of the end zone, and Lucas holds on after a tough (and illegal) head shot from Anthony Kokal. Ballgame over, even though we don't know that for sure just yet. 17-6 Mizzou.

1:51 - After another touchback, Dysert finds Andy Cruse for a 15-yard gain after Gaines went for the pick and took a bad angle, and after Lucas Vincent and Andrew Wilson blow up yet another inside run, a slant to David Frazier goes for seven. Tyrone Jones barely converts on third-and-2, then Randy Ponder is flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact. He destroyed Chris Givens and led with his shoulder, but helmet hit helmet, and that will get called. The hits continue, though. Luke Lambert and Wilson shut down a run to the left, and Gaines breaks up a pass to Frazier. On third-and-8 from the Mizzou 31, Wilson and Hobson light up Orne Bey on a screen pass, and a fourth-down pass falls harmlessly to the turf. Miami could have attempted a 47-yard field goal to try to cut Mizzou's lead back to one possession, but for obvious reasons they had no faith in their kicker.

1:59 - The offense has its issues, but it is stronger in one area than it may have been a couple of years ago: they can eat some clock with inside runs when they want to. A beautiful keeper on the zone read gets Franklin 15 yards, then De'Vion Moore gets another 10. Of course, Palmgren holds again (he was a repeat offender, but the whole line was guilty of penalties and mistakes), and after a five-yard run from Josey, Mizzou has to take to the air. Franklin once again works the middle of the field and finds Kemp for 14 yards (and a huge hit from the safety). On third-and-1, Franklin sneaks ahead for the first down, and the clock ticks under 9:00. Two Moore runs combine to lose a yard, however, and when Franklin is sacked on third down at the Miami 35, Mizzou elects to punt. Naturally, Barrows pitch checks up at the 1, and Hobson downs it. Just can't say enough about Trey Barrow.

2:05 - Thanks to special teams, Miami is forced to simply avoid a safety on their next drive. Two Finklea runs get five yards, and after two Miami penalties, punter Zac Murphy does well to pop off a 46-yard punt with his heels near the back of the end zone. Moe returns to the Miami 36. 4:51 left.

2:10 - With Miami loading up on the run, Mizzou can't generate much. Josey and Franklin combine for three yards on two tries, and Franklin finds Washington short of the first down line on third down. Miami calls timeout with 3:17 left, and Mizzou goes for it (I was disappointed, simply because I think a 46-yard field goal attempt for Ressel is almost an automatic three points), and Franklin comes up well short.

2:18 - Miami starts at their 29, and it's almost instantaneously third-and-7. Dysert finds Dawan Scott in a hole in the zone over the middle for 12 yards, but after he finds Cruse for another six, Dysert is sacked and stripped from behind by Brayden Burnett. Dominique Hamilton recovers, and that's that. Kendial Lawrence is chosen as the sacrificial "let yourself get thumped three times but stay in bounds" back. Poor guy got no blocking and showed no aggression. And now he's out with a fracture. Anyway, Barrow's final punt bounces out of bounds at the 8, because that's what he does, and Mizzou moves to 1-0.

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