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Alabama 42, Mizzou 10: Links and reflections

Alabama was flawless when it counted, but Missouri showed at least a few signs for hope before the game ended.

Jamie Squire - Getty Images

If you think about it, everything that happened in the first quarter of the Missouri-Alabama game was what Mizzou needed to pull an upset. A team got a lucky deflection and made a leaping interception. A team ran a flea flicker for a big gain. A team blocked a punt. All of those things needed to happen. The problem, of course, was that they all happened for Alabama.

L'Damian Washington not only fails to catch an imminently catchable ball from Corbin Berkstresser on Mizzou's second drive, but he tips it straight into the air, where Alabama's Vinnie Sunseri makes a lovely diving pick at midfield. On the next play, A.J. McCarron finds Kenny Bell for a 44-yard gain on a relatively well-covered flea flicker. Seven plays later, Trey Barrow's punt is blocked by Landon Collins. Alabama scores on a three-play, 17-yard drive, and it's 21-0 after 14 minutes. Missouri was out of the game before it could even dip into its own battery of trick plays (whatever those might have been), and even when the Tigers started playing better, they faced a 28-point deficit against what has been, to date, by far the best defense in the country.

It's funny: I had so much respect for Alabama coming in that, in a game in which the Tide won by 32 and outgained Mizzou by 404 yards (!), my initial thought after the game was "Eh, Mizzou wasn't terrible." I mean ... they were early on, but most of the big plays that defined the game happened because Alabama was just a lot better than Missouri. Mizzou's pass defense was solid (Bama averaged 6.4 yards per pass outside of the flea flicker), and I was actually semi pleased with some of the carries (and run blocking) by Kendial Lawrence and Russell Hansbrough. The problem was that Mizzou's passing game never even had a slight chance of succeeding versus Alabama (which we kind of expected), and Alabama's run game had a bigger advantage than I anticipated. Much bigger, actually.

So really, run defense was the only true disappointment I could find. Mizzou actually made a couple of special teams plays to counteract the early blocked punt, and Mizzou outscored 'Bama, 10-0, from the 8:30 mark of the second quarter to 14:00 mark of the fourth, and over three drives in the second and third quarter gained 76 yards in 15 plays (not counting the silly fumble yardage on Berkstresser's pre-halftime turnover, in which Mizzou was somehow assigned a 42-yard loss even though the sack itself was just an 8-yard loss. Alabama's own dropoff in intensity probably had something to do with that (you tend to lose interest when you go up four touchdowns, then sit through a 40-minute storm delay), but ... somehow, it could have been worse. Alabama wasted no time in applying the knockout blow, which was both disappointing and awesome to watch, but Mizzou kept fighting and enters a bye week having found at least a few things around which to build.

In two weeks, Mizzou's season will begin again. The Tigers will probably face Kentucky with a healthy-enough James Franklin, an offensive line that has compiled about 80 career starts, an angry defensive line, and a healthy linebacking corps. It will not be a flawless team -- we don't know what to expect from a receiving corps that has had a terribly disappointing three weeks, we don't yet know Eric Waters' status (who is kind of the team's only blocking tight end at the moment), we don't know if the special teams unit can stay out of its own way enough to take advantage of Marcus Murphy's awesome returns (Murphy has now scored four times on returns in 2012 and is just one score behind what Jeremy Maclin did in two years), and we don't know if Mizzou will be good enough to beat either Florida (almost certainly not), Tennessee (maybe) or Texas A&M (doubtful) on the road to get back on track to bowl eligibility. The damage from the first half of the season was extensive. But there is still a lot to play for, and the odds are good that Mizzou will play well enough to at least keep things interesting.

With a pasting at the hands of what might be the best college football team of the last decade (though 2004 USC, 2005 Texas and 2011 Alabama might have something to say about that), Mizzou's SEC initiation is complete. After some much-needed rest, the Tigers will have five weeks left to make something of a frustrating season.