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Pourover: A sleight of hand wasn’t going to fix the defensive issues

The week long theater of firing coaches and burning the depth chart doesn’t hide the fact the Tigers don’t have a good defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 09 North Texas at Missouri Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A win is a win is a win is a win is a win is a win.

Mizzou has approximately four games on the schedule they cannot afford to lose this year, and the good news is so far they’re 3-0 in those games. The bad news is they’re 0-3 in any other game, whether it’s a toss up or otherwise. But you can’t not beat North Texas, or SEMO, or Central Michigan. And the way the season is trending I think you have to include Vanderbilt in that group as well.

While Mizzou is winning the games they should, they’re doing so in a way where your eyebrow gets raised each time. Against Central Michigan it was early, you could write certain things off. But week over week the defense seemed to deteriorate, and it culminated with the thrashing against Tennessee last week, and led to the ever predictable “Reset Week”. A tradition as old as struggling football programs had to meet with the press as often as they do now, I guess.

Whenever things go south, you need to do something. I even said it last week after UT, “Something has to change.” And something did.

They fired the defensive line coach, then didn’t release a depth chart. Something changed.

Until it didn’t.

Here’s the thing about the depth chart though, you spend weeks before the season and even in season watching guys play. The depth chart exists because certain players have supposedly proven themselves to be better options at their position than others. We were all surprised in Week 1 when the depth chart revealed Allie Green IV and Akayleb Evans were behind Ish Burdine and Ennis Rakestraw. So maybe that was our first hint that the depth chart released by Mizzou Athletics was more of a PR move than an actual chart of the depth on the football team?

I guess that’s why I’m mostly non-plussed by the theater of the week. It ended up meaning nothing other than Chad Bailey started instead of Blaze Alldredge. On that decision Drinkwitz had this to say:

“There was no point (to prove.) It was earned. That was how it’s going to be for the rest of the year. You come to practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and whoever practices best is going to start. We’re going to evaluate the film, see where we’re at and open it up for competition. There’s no strategy, there’s no motivational ploy. There’s just reality. Whoever practices the best is going to play. Period. This program is going to be built on competition. That’s who we are at our core and that’s who we’re going to be. That’s no motivational tactic. Man, this ain’t Ted Lasso.”

Tell me you haven’t watched Ted Lasso without telling me you haven’t watched Ted Lasso.

Removing the depth chart is theater. It is a motivational ploy. The motivation is playing time, and telling the backups that the starter isn’t assumed to be a starter is exactly a motivational ploy for those not listed at the top of the depth. I do think when you are building culture within the program, and you’re attempting to set the tone of competition, you may need these ploys to set the tone. But like, this is how it works. You play well in practice, you get to play in the game. Once you get past middle school this is really how it plays out.

And here’s the kicker: that’s how it should work!

And as an absolute Ted Lasso fan, Lasso’s big motivational ploy is based solely and completely out of team building. Connecting with people, getting everyone on the same page and pulling the rope at the same time.

I tend to think soccer, or football in any country not named the United States, has more in common with basketball than it does American Football. In basketball you have fewer options, you send your players onto the floor and maybe call a few plays from the sideline. The same goes for soccer. But American Football is different. Everything is scripted. Each play chosen. The offense calls a play with specific personnel, the defense matches that personnel and calls its own plays to match up.

Which is why I liked this quote from Drinkwitz much better:

“They were 5-of-15 on third downs. They had three turnovers. I thought there were a lot of improvements. How many negative yards plays? How many sacks? Those were all steps. It wasn’t perfect, but we didn’t think we were going to transform into the ‘85 Bears overnight. We’re working towards it. We took a big step. It’s a process. We still had a couple busts that we got to get cleaned up. Figure out what’s the reason we don’t cover the tight end on a drag route or why we don’t cover the tailback out of the backfield in cover three when you’re the corner that has the deep third. Other than that, cover two safety has got to stay deep on fourth-and-five, didn’t. We’ll get that fixed. It’s a process. It’s something.”

I don’t like coachspeak. The first quote is coachspeak, the next one is truth. This is a process. Anyone who thought firing Jethro Franklin was suddenly going to turn the defense around is a disillusioned human and not worth reasoning with. The defense is flawed with not enough talent, but worse the talent they had wasn’t performing to the levels expected.

Nobody should have ever expected the defense to be stalwart. But by the end of the season it needs to be better. Yesterday things were better, but the competition was also not what they’ll see the rest of the year. North Texas is 1-4 on the season. They scored 12 points against SMU (who’s currently in the top 25), 6 against UAB, and 17 against Louisiana Tech. Missouri gave up 35.

Realistically, after Mehki Wingo returned an interception for a touchdown the game was over; Missouri was up 27 points at that point. It was midway through the 3rd quarter and the defense had only surrendered 14 points. So improvement!

Still, the Tigers gave up 21 points after that moment, some of which when backups were in the game. But I would hope Missouri would have backups capable of competing with Louisiana Tech or UAB. UAB is 68th in SP+, Louisiana Tech is 101st, Missouri is 67th. North Texas is 114th. It’s a process, I think we’re all bought in on the process. Drink is an excellent salesman who has upgraded recruiting and excited the right people in and around the program. But if I can, I’d recommend he attempt less theater, and worry more about substance. We’re ok waiting on the process to play itself out.

Stats from StatBroadcast:

statbroadcast unt
statbroadcast unt

Here are your other SEC scores:

  • Texas A&M 41, 1. Alabama 38
  • 2. Georgia 34, 18. Auburn 10
  • 17. Ole Miss 52, 13. Arkansas 51
  • 16. Kentucky 42, LSU 21
  • 20. Florida 42, Vanderbilt 0
  • Tennessee 45, South Carolina 20

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