Last week, in my edition of Three and Out, I mentioned how one of the things I was looking for specifically is for this Missouri team to fight, and to show some heart. This game was obviously a stinker, but I do think it was very evident that Missouri played with heart, particularly in the first half.
Since there is so much negativity to sift through after a loss like like Saturday’s, I thought I would instead focus on something positive— Missouri’s best defensive sequence on the day.
On Georgia’s first drive, they complete a quick slant for a first down.
Then, they start their next first down with this run. It is nothing fancy, just an inside run. Missouri’s defensive line does a decent job, but Chad Bailey (#33) and Martez Manuel (#3) flow inside of the gap to make the play. Manuel is the one to actually make the tackle, and had he missed, it is certain to be a chunk run for James Cook and Georgia.
Manuel’s tackle set up a second down and around seven.
This is a great play by the secondary as a whole.
The responsibilities in this zone coverage are difficult and can be confusing, especially when the offense sends three players on routes to one side. They’re trying to isolate defenders and force them to make difficult decisions in who to defend. Everybody has to be on their P’s and Q’s, because a busted coverage could lead to six points.
To the left side, there’s a running back that comes to the flat, and he’s picked up by a linebacker long enough for Bennett to look him off, and move his eyes downfield.
On that same side, the Bulldogs have their inside slot receiver run an out and up, double move. Kris Abrams-Draine does a great job of tagging the receiver, and not biting too hard on that double move. He stays with the receiver up the sideline, and is able to get his head turned and make a play on the ball to force the incomplete pass. Great play, and as a side note, Abrams-Draine has been one player who you can see the growth in his game from even the beginning of the year. He’s been impressive on a few individual plays where he’s in man coverage.
Missouri has struggled all year on third down. It’s been tough for this defense to find stops and get off the field, and it’s been frustrating.
Rock M’s own Brandon Kiley wrote this about Missouri’s third down defense about a month ago and had this soul-crushing stat:
In Missouri’s three FBS games, the Tigers are allowing opposing offenses to convert on 56 percent of their third down conversions. That’s the worst rate of any power five team when playing FBS opponents. For context, Georgia is converting 54 percent of its third down conversions this season. So, yeah, not great.
Since then, it hasn’t improved much. They’re still 122nd in the country in the percentage of third down conversions that they allow.
On this third down, though, Missouri comes through. Jeffcoat is able to break free and create a pressure, and the pursuit of him and his teammates, combined with the excellent coverage downfield, is just what the Mizzou defense needs to force the incompletion and get the Georgia offense off the field.
This game didn’t have a whole lot of positives, but this was certainly one of them. The Tigers made Georgia work on this drive and in that first half, and for a talent disparity as big as this one, that’s something to build off of. The effort, intensity and heart Missouri brought this past week may not make much of a difference against Georgia, but if they’re able to bottle some of that up for this weekend’s matchup against a very beatable South Carolina team, it could be a springboard for this Missouri team to finish the year strong.