I’ve never personally seen a python attack its prey. Snakes give me anxiety. But I feel like I saw the closest thing to it by watching Missouri pick apart Kentucky’s defense on Saturday.
The Tigers’ 62 rushing attempts are their most in a single game since 2016. Missouri had possession of the ball for more than 43 minutes of game time. The final score shows 20-10. Anyone who watch the game knows that outside of a three(ish) minute stretch late in the game, that contest never felt close.
But that doesn’t mean the outcome came without questions. As I found myself reading through some of the post game analysis, there was one thing in particular that stood out like a sore thumb: the wide receiver snap counts.
I know, I know. I’m a nerd.
But seriously, look at these numbers:
- Tauskie Dove: 55
- Micah Wilson: 45
- Jalen Knox: 39
- Barrett Banister: 27
- Damon Hazelton: 26
- Keke Chism: 22
- D’ionte (Boo) Smith: 18
- Dominic Gicinto: 5
Dove led Missouri’s receivers in snaps after getting his first real opportunity the week prior to show his ability. And second on the list is... Micah Wilson? Wait, the converted quarterback, Micah Wilson? That one?
And why were Damon Hazelton and Keke Chism on the field for the first play of the game, but finished the game playing less than half of the team’s snaps?
What’s going on here?
Damon Hazelton started last week third on #Mizzou's depth chart. He finished the week getting the ball on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage. He took advantage of the opportunity. pic.twitter.com/BiV7bK3fCq— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 28, 2020
I decided to go back to the film to find out, because all of this seemed strange to me. What went into the decision to play Wilson and Dove over the two players the Tigers brought in to be “touchdown makers”?
The little things became big things. That’s a good place to start.
To tell the story of Missouri’s receiver snap counts, you have to go back to the middle of the fourth quarter. The Tigers were leading 17-10 with 10 minutes to play. The game was still very much in question despite Mizzou outplaying Kentucky the vast majority of the day. The Tigers needed to put together a successful drive.
What ensued was a 15-play, 61-yard field goal drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock and effectively ended the game. Wilson led all receivers on that drive with 11 snaps, Dove was right behind with nine of his own. Bannister finished with four snaps on the drive, Knox had three, Hazelton and Chism had just two.
The explanation? Blocking.
Those snap counts surprised the heck out of me. So I went back to the tape to find out what went on there. It became pretty clear: Tauskie Dove & Micah Wilson were in the game because they're both willing blockers.— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 28, 2020
Here they are at the bottom of the screen on a 1st down run. pic.twitter.com/camzndlmlc
Most fans don’t take blocking into consideration when breaking down a receiver’s game. It’s understandable. You don’t get your name in the paper as a receiver for making a block that springs the running back for an extra five yards.
But that doesn’t make it any less significant.
Dove and Wilson are both willing blockers. They give 100 percent effort on the outside. That might not seem like much, but it matters. Especially in close games down the stretch when the running game has been working and Drinkwitz knew he was going to continue running it down the Wildcats’ throat to try to win the game.
It’s not sexy. Wilson and Dove are not household names, and they won’t become household names based on their blocking ability against Kentucky. But that didn’t make their contributions any less significant.
Here's another example on a breakaway Tyler Badie run. Watch Tauskie Dove at the bottom of the screen. Gets just enough of the CB to give Badie a lane to the outside. It doesn't take much. Blocking is as much about effort as anything at WR. Dove & Wilson are willing & able. pic.twitter.com/idPlFzkXnM— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 28, 2020
There probably won’t be many games in the future when Missouri runs the ball the way it did against Kentucky. Dove and Wilson might not lead the Tigers in snaps in any single game moving forward. But you’re going to see plenty of them on the field. They did their job against Kentucky, and they did it well.
Playing like that against that opponent is a pretty great way to get the attention of the coaches. Especially when it ends a 5-year losing streak.