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Missouri/Nevada: Anatomy of a Dagger

Missouri's offense is reaping praise for its 97-yard fourth quarter drive that put Nevada away on Friday. What exactly happened on that drive following Brian Coulter's forced fumble at the MU 3? Let's take a closer look:

Situation: 1st and 10 at MIZZ 3
Personnel/Formation: "12" personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends), Ace formation, Gabbert under center
Result: Derrick Washington rush for 2 yards to the MIZZ 5.

What happened: ZOMG MISSOURI WENT UNDER CENTER. Missouri tries to get out of the shadow of its own endzone, running the little used Ace formation with two in-line tight ends, including a very rare Jon Gissinger sighting. The handoff goes off-tackle to the left, where the left side of the line gets a pretty good push, only to have Washington stopped by the left side of the Nevada D-Line crashing down to the right.

Situation: 2nd and 8 at MIZZ 5
Personnel/Formation: "11" personnel with standing TE, Gun Trips Left (3x1 receivers) before Jones motions right
Result: Derrick Washington rush for no gain to the MIZZ 5.

What happened: Because the left side of the Missouri line gets blown off the line of scrimmage, it's hard to tell if this play was a middle draw, an off-tackle to the left, or a delay counter to the right. Austin Wuebbels manages to block his man, although he gets blown backward in the process, clogging the lane and forcing Washington to try to bounce right to no avail.

Situation: 3rd and 8 at MIZZ 5
Personnel/Formation: Two-back Gun set, Lawrence/Washington split on each side of Gabbert, 2x1 receivers
Result: Blaine Gabbert pass complete to Danario Alexander for 8 yards to the MIZZ 13 for a 1ST down.

What happened: Nevada shows blitz but rushes only four, with two would-be blitzers immediately bailing from the line of scrimmage. The receivers are getting extremely cushy coverages out wide, and all three receivers get a free release. Lawrence flares out right and Washington hooks up the middle, both as safety valve outlets that Gabbert never even considers. Gabbert sees what appears to be a Nevada zone aimed at taking away the middle of the field deep, and our man "Dontario" Alexander breaks out to the sideline where there's a major soft spot in coverage. Alexander was in the slot, and the unidentified MU receiver split out to his left was able to stretch the field vertically and open up that sideline for Danario.

Situation: 1st and 10 at MIZZ 13
Personnel/Formation: Gun Trips Right (1x3, stand up TE in slot), Washington left of Gabbert
Result: Blaine Gabbert pass incomplete to Andrew Jones.

What happened: Missouri runs one of the staples of its offense, the playaction pass with a pulling guard. Gabbert shows run to Washington, as Wuebbels pulls right to attack the end left unblocked by Dan Hoch, who's crashed left to sell the fake. The inside slot receiver shows bubble screen, which at first appears to suck down the defenders and open up the short hitch route to Jones. The pocket sets for Gabbert, but the defense doesn't crash down on the bubble as hard as expected. Gabbert throws a laser behind a pretty well-covered Jones and lives to fight another down.

Situation: 2nd and 10 at MIZZ 13
Personnel/Formation: Two back Gun set, Washington and Lawrence split, two receivers (2x1) strong right
Result: Kendial Lawrence rush for 3 yards to the MIZZ 16.

What happened: Missouri runs Lawrence off tackle on what could have been considered a lead play if Washington had elected to get out and block. Nevada brings a linebacker blitz from the strong side, but the play runs away from the blitzer and leaves him as a non-factor. Both Nevada linebackers read the play perfectly and contain the run on the near side.

Situation: 3rd and 7 at MIZZ 16
Personnel/Formation: Gun Trips Right, 1x3 receivers with Washington to left of Gabbert
Result: Blaine Gabbert pass complete to Wes Kemp for 18 yards to the MIZZ 34 for a 1ST down.

What happened: Again, Nevada brings four, and settles into the Half Quarters in coverage. Hoch and Fisher are able to push their rushers outside, but the left defensive tackle gets a strong push up the middle on the bull rush. Barnes is able to recover to push the rusher past Gabbert, allowing him to step up and deliver a bit of an arching throw from the hash marks to the opposite sideline, where Wes Kemp has all kinds of space. The corner continues retreating to take away his quarter of the field deep, only to have Kemp settle underneath. Two third downs. Two conversions for Gabbert.

Situation: 1st and 10 at MIZZ 34
Personnel/Formation: Show empty set (3x2, Lawrence in slot), Lawrence motions into backfield
Result: Kendial Lawrence rush for 1 yard to the MIZZ 35.

What happened: Missouri runs the play that was one of its biggest successes against Bowling Green. In 2009, David Yost has loved splitting his backs out wide and giving the ball to them on what appears to be jet sweeps. Instead of motioning the backs into the backfield and having them come set, Yost is having the backs take the ball on the move, and instead of racing to the outside like most receivers, he's having the backs cut upfield almost immediately. The zone blocking scheme moves left as Lawrence takes the handoff. All seven men in the box for Nevada follow the play, and Lawrence is tripped up for negligible gain.

Situation: 2nd and 9 at MIZZ 35
Personnel/Formation: Can't exactly tell -- ESPN montage cuts off start of play.
Result: Blaine Gabbert pass complete to Jared Perry for 17 yards to the NEV 48 for a 1ST down.

What happened: Can we PLEASE start calling Jared Perry by the name "Sir Screen Pass" in the future? For all the grief the O-Line has earned so far this season, they get major props on this play. Gabbert takes the snap and immediately looks right for Perry on the inside screen, who is initially boosted by a solid block from Kurtis Gregory at the line of scrimmage. Perry takes another couple of steps downfield and has a wall of Tim Barnes and Jayson Palmgren to his left. Danario ties his man up long enough to push Perry passed the first down marker, and Perry's momentum carries him forward into Nevada territory. Solid downfield blocking for Mizzou by both the line and the receivers has been a staple of success for the Tigers over the past few seasons, and it comes up huge on this play.

Situation: 1st and 10 at NEV 48
Personnel/Formation: Gun right, 2x2 receivers (standing TE Jones in slot), Washington right of Gabbert
Result: Derrick Washington rush for 42 yards to the NEV 6 for a 1ST down.

What happened: This one is going to kill Nevada in the film room this week. Gabbert takes the snap and immediately hands off to Washington on the sweep to the left. The play is IMMEDIATELY busted up by the backside defensive end and a hard-crashing linebacker, only to have the 'backer shake loose at Washington's feet and have the end slide off of Washington's waist. Those two diagnosed the play PERFECTLY, but just couldn't finish the play. Those two are now stuck upfield, and the offensive line and Danario Alexander have come down to effectively seal off the remaining five Nevada defenders in the box, opening up the left side for Washington. A HORRID pursuit angle by the Nevada safety allows D-Wash to get outside with absolutely zero moves required. Washington scampers down the field and could have waltzed in if Perry could have tied up his man. This play is seriously going to be a kick in the junk for the Nevada coaching staff.

Situation: 1st and Goal at NEV 6
Personnel/Formation: Two-back Gun set, 1x2 receivers strong to the right
Result: Derrick Washington rush for 2 yards to the NEV 4.

What happened: Gabbert takes the quick snap and gives to Washington moving right to left. Nevada has eight men in the box and simply outnumbers Missouri at the point of attack. All things considered, not a bad run by Washington to lower the boom and pick up two hard-earned redzone yards. 

Situation: 2nd and Goal at NEV 4
Personnel/Formation: Gun left, Washington left of Gabbert, 2x2 receivers, with receivers at left stacked close together
Result: Blaine Gabbert pass complete to Jared Perry for 4 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

What happened: Danario Alexander immediately fired off the ball and blows back the Nevada corner. The ball is out of Gabbert's hand quickly enough that Fisher, Barnes, Wuebbels and Gregory really don't get out in time to provide any sort of screen for Perry, but Perry hits the seam in between two defenders quick enough that it doesn't particularly matter. Missouri's celebration is subdued as Mizzou appears to have been flagged for offensive pass interference, but the throw stays behind the line of scrimmage and the points stay on the board. Gilmore and Tessitore determine that Mizzou got away with one, and I'm in no position to argue, although I'm not exactly complaining.

The margin of defeat or the margin of victory can be just that small. A couple of CLUTCH third down conversions by Gabbert as well as poor tackling and pursuit by Nevada on the Washington run puts the game squarely in Missouri's control.