1. Good grades for ... almost everybody
Mizzou running backs averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Mizzou quarterbacks got sacked three times in 35 pass attempts (8.6%). That's shaky if it comes against GEORGIA. It came against SEMO.
Quarterbacks were fine yesterday. Receivers had a couple of drops but were mostly fine considering the youth. Defensive line was good. Lienbackers were amazing (one in particular). Defensive backs were fine (SEMO's star receiver Paul McRoberts had six targets, four catches, and 40 yards). Special teams was fine (and Corey Fatony was awesome). The freshmen were mostly fantastic. Mizzou's overall GPA yesterday was perfectly acceptable ... but the offensive line gets a big fat C-. And that's obviously kind of scary.
Now, obviously this comes with caveats. Russell Hansbrough had two carries for 23 yards before spraining his ankle and sitting out the final 3.5 quarters. Evan Boehm got hurt in the first quarter, limped around out there until halftime, then spent the second half in a walking boot. You lose probably your two best offensive players, and, go figure, your offense will probably have some issues.
Still, this hints at a concern that was growing in August already. The offensive line looked less than amazing in fall camp, which brought back memories of last year's early-season performance. The line eventually became a sturdy strength, but September was dicey. It's only a sample size of one, but so far, so dicey again this year.
It's a chicken vs. egg thing when it comes to running and run blocking. Ish Witter had almost nothing to work with and created almost nothing; with the lack of push the line was getting, it's conceivable that a healthy Hansbrough would have produced no better than Witter, but Witter doesn't really get the benefit of the doubt. He had about three good rushes last year, and while that was enough to make me pretty confident in him, he still bears the burden of proof. In two carries, Hansbrough gained only 10 fewer yards than Witter did in 13.
This definitely isn't an all-is-lost situation, more of a cautionary tale. Hansbrough said he'll be ready for next week, but it's not really his say. If he or Boehm are to miss more than a couple of weeks, then all eyes will be on Witter, Alec Abeln (who moved from guard to center in Boehm's absence), and the right side of the line, which, to my sun-baked eyes, suffered more than the left side.
2. Damn, Kentrell
"Wow, that was some fast pursuit from the backside. Oh, it was Kentrell."
"WOW! Someone blocked a quick kick! I'm not sure I've ever seen that bef--oh, it was Kentrell."
"Wow, someone's shaking hands with every single member of the event staff after the game. Oh, it's Kentrell."
I'm not sure even Sean Weatherspoon had as perfect a performance as Kentrell Brothers did yesterday. Eight solo tackles, eight asissts, 1.5 tackles for loss, a blocked quick kick ... Brothers was everywhere. He and Mike Scherer joked in fall camp about their not-so-friendly tackles competition; Scherer was a little banged up, apparently, but Brothers was stealing his tackles regardless. He carried a pretty large chip on his shoulder in the summer and into fall camp, and if this is the result, someone needs to keep making sure he's nice and angry.
Kentrell Brothers blocks the punt and Aarion Penton recovers it and takes it for a touch down! pic.twitter.com/d8Udd4DBfD— Rock M Nation (@rockmnation) September 5, 2015
Is he Neo from the Matrix now? https://t.co/C1hlmDY2YX— Rock M Nation (@rockmnation) September 5, 2015
3. Well done, freshmen
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
They should probably cover Tyler Hunt pic.twitter.com/0uoQSotE3a— Rock M Nation (@rockmnation) September 5, 2015
Terry Beckner Jr says you're not going anywhere https://t.co/E66avE9YnQ— Rock M Nation (@rockmnation) September 5, 2015
Drew Lock attempted 11 passes (including sacks) and gained 133 yards. Corey Fatony averaged 46 yards per punt and 64 yards per kickoff (with three touchbacks). Keyon Dilosa, DeSean Blair, Emanuel Hall, and Thomas Richard had six catches for 59 yards. Terry Beckner Jr. was invisible early and quite visible late. Nate Howard wreaked havoc in the fourth quarter (1.5 tackles for loss and a left tackle who probably had to question his love of football after the game). Brandon Lee almost picked a pass off. Walter Brady blazed into the backfield a couple of times. Terez Hall, Grant Jones, Josh Moore, and Tavon Ross spent some time around the ball.
Mizzou's upside in 2015 was going to be determined in part by how quickly some true and redshirt freshmen were able to make an impact. Without freshman contributors, the last two years of attrition were probably going to catch up to the Tigers.
It's just one game, and it was against an FCS opponent, but the freshmen very much passed their first audition. Fatony was awesome, and Howard stood out the moment he saw the field (and not only because of his Clarence Green-esque locks). And yes, Drew Lock just keeps tantalizing. We got a decent look at Mizzou's future yesterday, and it was exciting ... exciting enough to help the present tense as well.
4. Potent potables
Here are some random tidbits I felt like mentioning:
- With SEMO trying to protect its green offensive tackles with lots of running and quicker passes, Mizzou didn't get many opportunities to get to Tay Bender early on. Still, the Tigers managed two sacks in 24 pass attempts: one on a beautiful Kenya Dennis corner blitz and one on an admittedly shaky intentional grounding call. Bender wasn't particularly pressured but threw to no one in particular -- either he felt pressure that wasn't there, or he had some massive miscommunication with a receiver. Beyond those two sacks, though, Rickey Hatley, Marcell Frazier and Walter Brady were all credited with hurries, Charles Harris was in the backfield a lot (and tracked Bender down and stripped him once), and Howard was a late-game wrecking ball.
- Joey Burkett was around the ball a lot. We'll see what David Morrison's snap counts piece says later in the week, but it seemed he may have been on the field a decent amount, perhaps because Scherer was a little bit hobbled. Regardless, he had 4.5 tackles (3 solo, 3 assists), third-most on the team. He looks the part.
- Loved the way DeSean Blair set up his blocking on his one reception of the night; he caught a short pass and cut back at an angle that allowed a blocker to pick off the defender nearest to him, turning a 10-yard gain into a 21-yard gain.
- Tyler Hunt in the moments after Drew Lock found him wide open downfield and winged the ball in his direction: "Don't drop this. Don't drop this. Don't drop this. Don't drop this." At least, that's what I would have been saying.
- Anthony Sherrils did well. SEMO had no hope of making any plays downfield (on McRoberts' one longer catch, Sherrils cut it off for a gain of 20), and he also made his presence felt near the line of scrimmage, stuffing the game's first play for zero yards. His one kick return was pretty lackluster, but ... it was one kick return.
- SEMO was able to briefly find some success on the perimeter of the defense, using jet sweeps, zone reads, and some similar plays to cut upfield on the edge. That didn't last long. SEMO gained 97 yards in an 18-play span in the second quarter (5.4 per play) and managed a field goal in this span but managed only 104 yards in 46 plays (2.3) the rest of the game. Order was quickly restored.
- It was soooooooo hot until the clouds came late in the third quarter. I missed the 2013 Toledo game because of work, and maybe that was as bad or worse, but this might have been the hottest game I've attended. Mid-90s with minimal breeze. Yuck. It was 1999 UAB Game hot.