Mizzou 62, SE Louisiana 10: Tiger Offense Full Of Promise If O-Line Holds Steady

Marcus Murphy is pretty damn good for No. 2 RB.

And with this post, we turn the page to Georgia. (Well, aside from the monster Bill Carter photo gallery coming soon.)

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Get Well Soon, Jack

Considering the opponent, James Franklin's passing line really wasn't very good: 13-for-21, 131 yards, one touchdown, one sack. That's 22 pass attempts for a terribly mediocre 5.8 yards per attempt.

From my seat, I saw three things conspiring against Franklin as a whole:

1. The play-calling was, for obvious reasons, very vanilla.
2. Frank the Tank isn't much for throwing in inclement weather.
3. The interior of the offensive line struggled mightily once the vanilla took effect.

On the opening drive of the game, Franklin was just fine. He ripped off a 28-yard run on the game's second play, he completed short passes to Marcus Lucas and Eric Waters, he completed a nice downfield pass to Bud Sasser on 2nd-and-9 from the SLU 28, and in the face of a bit of pressure, he lobbed the ball to where only T.J. Moe could catch it (in diving fashion) on the two-yard touchdown. For the drive, he was 4-for-6 for 32 yards and a score. One of the incompletions was a lovely downfield pass that a wide open Kendial Lawrence very much should have caught. The per-pass average was unimpressive, but that's mostly because of the nature of the passes themselves.

The next time Franklin threw a pass, Mizzou was up, 28-0. He completed his next two passes (16 yards to L'Damian Washington, six to Dorial Green-Beckham), which means at one point he was 6-for-8 for 54 yards. The rest of the game, he completed just seven of 13 passes, mostly on passing downs. He was mostly asked to throw short passes, but his accuracy left him on more intermediate passing. What struck me about this was what happened the last time Franklin was asked to throw in inclement weather: the Arrowhead wind tunnel against Kansas. He was dreadful in the first half of that game and only good in the second half. It is the smallest of sample sizes, but it is conceivable that Franklin's throwing motion just isn't meant for iffy weather. Or, I could be making that up. If I am, then let's just fall back on the "vanilla" part. Mizzou was in no way aggressive in the passing game, and the stats showed. We'll see what happens this coming week, when Mizzou is almost certainly forced to open things up at times.

In the second and third quarters, on basically every passing down, SE Louisiana began to stunt and blitz in the middle of the defensive line. Mizzou's three interior linemen, who had combined for zero career starts heading into Saturday night, struggled considerably with this, and by process of elimination we can begin to figure out why.

Mitch Morse's debut at center was far from wonderful. He began to struggle with high snaps when the rain came, and either he or Evan Boehm failed to always pick up the right man. The result: on many occasions, Franklin was forced to immediately escape the pocket on pass plays. (This would make sense, of course; Morse was starting his first game at center, and Boehm was starting in his first collegiate game.) Here are Franklin's final 11 pass attempts:

  • 2nd-and-10, SLU 46 (passing down): Franklin incomplete to T.J. Moe
  • 3rd-and-10, SLU 46 (passing down): Franklin incomplete to DGB
  • 3rd-and-9, SLU 46 (passing down): Franklin incomplete to Lucas
  • 1st-and-10, SLU 25 (standard down): Franklin complete to Waters for four yards.
  • 2nd-and-6, SLU 21 (standard down): Franklin complete to Moe for 20 yards.
  • 2nd-and-6, SLU 26 (standard down): Franklin complete to Marcus Murphy for loss of six (Murphy slipped on a screen).
  • Third-and-12, SLU 32 (passing down): Franklin incomplete, throwaway under pressure.
  • 1st-and-10, MU 26 (standard down): Franklin complete to Lawrence for five yards.
  • 2nd-and-3, MU 48 (standard down): Franklin sacked for loss of four.
  • 3rd-and-17, MU 34 (passing down): Franklin complete to DGB for 29 yards.
  • 2nd-and-3, SLU 30 (standard down): Franklin complete to L'Damian Washington for five yards, negated by just about the most baffling offensive pass interference call I've ever seen (at least from Row 61).
  • 3rd-and-13, SLU 40 (passing down): Franklin incomplete to DGB.

So on his final five standard downs pass attempts, Franklin went 4-for-4 and was sacked once. On his final six passing downs passes, he went 1-for-6. To an extent, the poor per-pass averages came about by design: Mizzou was ultra-conservative for the final 50 minutes of the game. But there were also other, more disconcerting issues at play here. If SE Louisiana can consistently get pressure on Franklin on passing downs, it probably goes without saying that Georgia and others will, too. If the issues were simply a matter of poor communication on the part of a super-green offensive line, then things might be rectified rather quickly. If there's more to it than that, then it could be a season-long issue. We'll see. Regardless ... get well soon, Jack Meiners.

Nice Runs, Murph

It's funny. About midway through the third quarter, I was a little disconcerted about Marcus Murphy's performance. Physically, he looked great, but while he has said he wants to prove he can run between the tackles, run to contact, and serve as a strong all-around back, his instincts were letting him down a bit. He was leaving yards on the table because he was choosing the wrong holes or running to contact in the open field instead of dancing. He ended up averaging 6.4 yards per carry, so it's not like this was a serious issue, but to the eye, Russell Hansbrough's four carries were more impressive to me, even if the stats disagreed.

And then Murphy broke off one of the prettiest punt return touchdowns I've ever seen. Now, the second touchdown was super-easy: he paused, let the first two pursuit men run by him, and ran untouched for a touchdown. The first one, however, showed off Murphy's vision, patience, escapability and speed. He started and stopped on multiple occasions, brushed off a couple of arm tackles, somehow avoided tripping on his own blocker at one point, changed directions, reached full speed in about three steps, and then cruised in fourth gear while Markus Golden caught up to block the only tackler with a chance. It was perfect. And honestly, it assuaged any concerns I might have had. He good.

(And then Russell Hansbrough finished up the game with a 56-yard kickoff return. Henry Josey is mostly irreplaceable, but Mizzou has some serious open-field skill at the running back position this year.)

Shots Fired In The Race For 2014 Starting Quarterback

I think a lot of us had begun to lean toward Maty Mauk in the race to replace James Franklin a couple of years. Well let's just say that Corbin Berkstresser won the week. Mauk gets arrested for pimpin' on a motor scooter, and Berkstresser looks almost literally perfect in a couple of drives late in the game. Berk completed five of five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, and he ran five times for 25 yards and a touchdown. I was terrified of finding "Hmm, maybe we should think about starting him over Franklin" comments in the live thread when I got home, but in a world where you can compliment the backup quarterback without it being a complaint about the starter, allow me to say that Berkstresser looked incredible Saturday night.

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