1. One more thing about the offensive line, and I'll move on
The Internet got me a job I love, so I try not to complain too much about it, even when it deserves it. But I will say that its ability to create an echo chamber drives me crazy sometimes. And as it pertains to Missouri, it doesn't even have to be an echo chamber of incorrect ideas -- just ideas that repeat themselves even when it's clear nothing can/will be done.
With Gary Pinkel's "we do what we do" style, we know there aren't going to be any mass assistant firings or massive shufflings on the depth chart. That's not how he responds to problems. And in 15 years, we've seen that, as a whole, he ends up with pretty good responses to problems. So when the inevitable "Fire AJ Ricker (or Josh Henson)!" or "Why is Connor McGovern still playing tackle???" comes up on my Twitter timeline or in a Rock M thread, I just roll my eyes. It's not like I don't agree (with the latter, not the former); it's just that ... well ... we do what we do. We are left to trust that the staff knows what it's doing, knowing that these coaches do, in fact, probably know what they're doing.
But ... damn. You cannot tell me that this line...
LT Connor McGovern, LG Brad McNulty, C Evan Boehm, RG Mitch Hall, RT Nate Crawford
...would perform better than, say, this line:
LT Taylor Chappell, LG Connor McGovern, C Evan Boehm, RG Mitch Hall, RT Nate Crawford
Mizzou likes to put its best (non-center) lineman at left tackle, and that's fine. And when we see that McGovern is still in that spot despite a) him not being as good a tackle as a guard and b) the current left guards (McNulty, Alec Abeln, sometimes Taylor Chappell) struggling mightily in game after game, we're left to believe that McGovern's replacements at LT would be worse than the LGs in the current arrangement. I'm really, really struggling to believe that at this point.
For one thing, Missouri has played two guys at right tackle, and neither have been awful. Nate Crawford has looked like a sophomore at times, but the RT position hasn't been nearly as problematic as LG. It wouldn't take playing a green player -- a Malik Cuellar, or a Paul Adams, or a Clay Rhodes -- at LT; it would just take moving one of the right guys to the left.
Vanderbilt has an excellent pass defense but an only decent run defense. If Missouri is to escape Nashville with its fifth win, the run game will need to ... well, exist. Mashing McGovern and Boehm together, with Hall on the other side (Hall was quite good in Missouri's one decent OL performance, against South Carolina), might be able to create some lanes for Russell Hansbrough between the tackles. And hey, it might not. But I simply cannot see how that line would do worse than this one.
2. Okay, I lied, one more thing
Removing seniors from the depth chart up front, you get this for 2016:
|Current Depth Chart...|
|Malik Cuellar (Sr)||Alec Abeln (Jr)||Sam Bailey (So)||Kevin Pendleton (So)||
Nate Crawford (Jr)
Paul Adams (So)
|Not on current Depth Chart...|
|Mike Fairchild (So)
Tanner Owen (RSFr)
|Andy Bauer (So)||AJ Harris (RSFr)||Clay Rhodes (Jr)|
|Committed for class of 2016...|
|Tyler Howell (Jr)||MacKenzie Nworah (Fr)||Trystan Castillo (Fr)||Royce Newman (Fr)|
I don't really have a point to make here -- I just wanted to see it laid out. This is the unit that will determine Mizzou's 2016 fate. Last time Mizzou had a sketchy line (2012's M*A*S*H unit), there was decent continuity, and the returnees buckled down and played incredibly well. Next year, Mizzou won't have the benefit of continuity, but the spotlight and skepticism will be in full force regardless. We'll see how they respond.
3. Some happy thoughts
The most frustrating part about last night was that there were so many things to be encouraged about even though the offense was yet again a liability. For the purpose of our Sunday mood, let's make a list:
- As mentioned by David Morrison on Twitter last night, not even Alabama held Georgia under 4 yards per play, but Mizzou did. The Dawgs have some offensive issues this year, but they don't have as many as Mizzou made them have last night.
- The last time an opponent held Georgia to 120 or fewer rushing yards: 2013 against Auburn. Auburn held the Dawgs to 117 yards on 25 carries. Last night, Mizzou allowed 120 yards ... on 45 carries. Guh. So good. So, so good. I know Nick Chubb wasn't in uniform, but Sony Michel looked good and Brendan Douglas had some strong runs. And still: 45 carries, 120 yards.
- Midway through the second quarter, Terry Godwin caught a 35-yard pass on Anthony Hines (who seemed to play quite a bit last night, by the way), moving Georgia from deep in its territory to near midfield. Greyson Lambert beyond that one completion: 22-for-31, 143 yards, two sacks, 4.0 yards per pass attempt.
- Average starting field position in the first half: Mizzou 45, Georgia 23. Obviously the Tigers failed to take advantage, but failing to exploit an advantage is at least different from failing to create an advantage at all. We saw last night what just a little bit of field flipping can do. And with a better offense (which Mizzou will have one day, and oh, what a day it will be!), the Tigers would have taken about a 20-3 lead into halftime.
- Russell Hansbrough looked like Russell Hansbrough again! Even when he limped off in the third quarter, he came back and looked bouncy again. And on his 24-yard reception late in the first half, we saw what he can do when given a little bit of open space.
- Actually, let's talk about that late-Q2 drive. As sad as it is that Mizzou gained 68 of its 164 total yards (and had three of its six -- SIX -- first downs) on one drive, that drive was pretty awesome. On third-and-10 from the 10, Drew Lock connected with Hansbrough for a perfect (and perfectly blocked!) screen and run. After finding Cam Hilton for a gain of six, Lock floated a perfect ball to Ish Witter on the right sideline (and Witter made a wonderful catch) for 14 yards on third-and-3. Lock made a perfect read to find Sean Culkin for seven yards on first down from the Georgia 45, then threw as gorgeous a pass as you'll ever see, threading the needle to Hilton for 29 yards to the Georgia 9.
- Yadda yadda yadda, Mizzou then ran for barely any gain on two plays, and a Lock lob to Brown fell incomplete on third down (and would have been negated anyway by Crawford lining up in the wrong spot). Still, the six plays in the middle of this drive offered a glimpse into the future.
- Cam Hilton! He's going to be very, very good. At either safety or receiver.
- Because this is a happy list, I'll frame this in a happy way: in the last two weeks, Mizzou has come really, really close to turning big plays into game-turning plays. If J'Mon Moore is able to tiptoe in-bounds and score on Mizzou's first drive against Florida, the Tigers are trailing by only a 14-7 margin well into the third quarter. Maybe the pick six still happens and Florida wins 21-7 instead of 21-3, but the circumstances are different, and Florida maybe doesn't play as conservatively on offense (therefore risking turnovers).
- And last night ... STAY ON YOUR FEET, NATE. On second-and-9, basically off his back foot, Drew Lock found Brown for a gain of 33 to UGA's 21. But to make sure he didn't drop the ball, Brown added a little bit of an extra leap on the catch, and he stumbled. The ball didn't hit him in stride, but it came close, and Brown keeps his feet, that's a 54-yard touchdown, and it's 10-0. (Here's your reminder that Georgia only scored nine points.) Because Missouri had so few successes, you come to doubly regret the missed opportunities you have. But wow, that would've been huge. Great play, but ... so close to being greater.
- Drew Lock only made one real mistake (that I can remember) in the passing game. Scrambling to his right in the third quarter, he showed lovely elusiveness in outrunning a pass-rusher but threw a terribly ill-advised pass downfield. It was picked, but Lock had stepped out of bounds as he threw, which saved him. He began to leak out of the pocket more quickly at times, which could obviously turn into a bad habit, but he didn't have a choice -- he was sacked four times as is, and not leaving the pocket would have turned that into about nine sacks. In all, I was happy with the poise he showed considering he was making his first road start in front of 93,000 at night.