COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 15: Defensive lineman Michael Sam #52 of the Missouri Tigers is congratulated by teammates after sacking quarterback Taylor Kelly #10 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the game at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Never apologize for a win, right? Survive and advance. Whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I'm rolling with that.
1. This Defense Looks Ready For Prime Time. ASU's Kelly made some unbelievable (but not necessarily repeatable) plays in the 2nd half, almost all on improvisation . On the other hand, Steck's crew created consistent pressure all game long. That Kelly was able to escape it doesn't negate the fact that he was running for his life for much of the night. On the game's last drive the secondary came up huge, making Kelly hold the ball just a bit longer than he wanted, and of course Walker sealed the deal with the INT. How many times have we seen a guy drop that pick? (Coincidentally, Kelly is pretty good dress rehearsal for South Carolina's Conner Shaw; only Shaw has a bigger arm.)
2. The Offensive Line and the Kicking Games are--um--Works in Progress. Let's get this out of the way. This was an admirable effort by Berkstresser. I really have no idea how fast the game was moving for him and which plays he felt most comfortable running. So, I won't grouse about play-calling. Berk got valuable experience, and I feel like the offense is in capable hands long term. Having said that, against a first time starter you know a defense will pin its collective ears back and try things it wouldn't try against a more experienced starter. Mizzou had numerous opportunities to beat ASU's incessant blitzing in the second half but couldn't find any consistency. Now, it would be lazy to lay that entirely on the QB. This offensive line, not surprisingly, hasn't come together yet. The pass protection has been, to put it kindly, inconsistent. I won't even talk about the snaps from center. However, if we're looking for something to build on, the conventional running game looked quite nice for stretches. The linemen fired out and opened some holes for Lawrence.
Bonus Thought: The kicking game is eye gougingly bad right now. This staff has has been too good at this for too long for things not to settle down a bit. Right?