Throughout the stadium on Saturday, there was what felt like a collective unease in the air when the decision was made to send the offense back out for the two point conversion. I heard many people around me openly second guess the decision, and for a second... So did I.
Shows what we know.
What I, and many others in that stadium didn’t know, is that Drinkwitz had a play in his back pocket— a play that had been practiced quite often, and one that the players believed in, so he was supremely confident. Sometimes, that’s all that matters.
I thought the following was an interesting note, given how the play unfolded.
Drinkwitz: Parker Jr was Bazelak's THIRD read on the 2-point conversion.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) November 21, 2021
You usually don’t get to progress through three reads that close to the end zone just because of how condensed the area is. Because of its oddity, I thought we’d look at how those three options unfolded.
You’ve probably seen the beginning parts of this play. It’s a simple play action on what looks to be a bootleg to the flat. The first read is to Tyler Badie in the flat.
The defensive end for Florida, though, does a great job of keeping his contain and forcing Bazelak back inside towards the pocket. From here, all of Bazelak’s decisions have to be split-second choices because they’re accounting for this pressure off the edge that has flown in untouched.
Lined up as basically a tight end, Barrett Banister takes a couple steps to his right, simulating almost like he’s coming down to block on one of the defensive tackles. He’s supposed to be the second option for Bazelak in this progression series.
However, when coming out of the backfield, he’s tracked really well by a couple of linebackers from Florida and is covered up pretty much immediately. At this point, Missouri’s two most reliable offensive players are covered up in a do-or-die situation. Time is ticking and a play needs to be made, but Bazelak is running out of reads.
The first two reads in Badie and Banister were covered, but with all of the motion headed to one side, including Tauskie Dove on a cross to clear out the corner, there’s just one read left.
Daniel Parker, Jr. starts this play blocking down, and when he does, the linebacker assigned to him disregards him and keys in on Banister. The only problem with that? DPJ has a delayed release and by the time the backer realizes it, the play has already been made.
Connor Bazelak didn’t set the world on fire on Saturday. He was extremely average, and at times has limited this offense and what they can do. That said, he avoided the dreaded turnovers that have plagued him, and when this team NEEDED a play, he gave it to them. This was a difficult play to make, and he made it with the understanding of who the blame would be on if it didn’t work.
Bazelak has taken the brunt of the criticism over the course of the season, and some of it is deserved. The decision making hasn’t been good enough, and the downfield aspect of his game has been hit or miss. This team as a whole is very flawed though, and not overly talented anywhere on offense except for running back. Bazelak hasn’t been the guy who can put a band-aid over structural overarching program issues, but he’s not the only reason why this offense has struggled at various points in this season.
As for the program as a whole, this win gives Drink just a bit more proof of concept. He can go into living rooms across the country and sell the fact that even with a defense that was falling apart and a QB situation that has limited the offense, he can find a way to get his team to a bowl game. Bowl games are the floor, and are now the expectation.