There had to be a glimmer of anxiety early on. The scoring for Missouri's Black & Gold game was as offense-friendly as possible -- it was offense on one team, defense on the other, and standard scoring, meaning the defense could only score points if it actually scored points. This was custom-made for a "big" offensive win, and sure enough, the O eventually "won" by three touchdowns. But after one sloppy quarter, it didn't appear impossible that, with help from a pick six or something, the defense was going to win, 7-0. Or 2-0.
Every Drew Lock throw at the Mizzou Spring Game
The early offensive jitters loosened up a bit, however, and while the defense was still the better looking unit for the day, the O scored three times, twice with Drew Locks first-team offense.
Drew Lock's still got the prettiest arm.
His bomb to J'Mon Moore wasn't the hardest pass in the world because Moore had a few steps on his defender, but it was still a reminder that he still has the arm that seduced so many (including me) in fall camp last year.
For the game, Lock was 9-for-13 for 134 yards; the Moore pass accounted for 64 of those yards (the other eight completions went for 70), but if you can mix accurate short passes with the occasional vertical ball, you're in business.
Marvin Zanders threw some passes he wishes he could get back.
Zanders did go 8-for-13 for 83 yards, a touchdown, and no sacks (since the snap that went zooming over his head in the third quarter counts as a team rush, not a sack). But he missed on some trickier passes, including one that was open and had plenty of open space ahead. And for the first time in three spring games, he didn't get a chance to do any major damage with his legs.
Jack Lowary, meanwhile, didn't get much chance to show off. He completed two passes -- one for six yards and one for minus-five. He took a sack as well, meaning his 10 pass attempts netted two yards.
Ish Witter looked good.
A quick glance at the stat line (13 carries, 43 yards) doesn't suggest it, but I liked what I saw from Ish. He was having to make moves in the backfield a lot -- despite missing Terry Beckner Jr., Charles Harris, and Harold Brantley, the first-team line was active as hell -- but his vision was solid when he had the opportunity, and he seems harder to tackle.
You never want to conclude too much from what you see in a small handful of April carries, but I really thought I saw improvement late in the year from Witter, and I saw more yesterday. None of that matters if he stinks in September, but for now that's all you can ask for.
Witter could also turn into one hell of a third-down back (even if he's in on first and second down a lot, too). He had three catches for 33 yards, and the first two moved the chains on third-and-long.
We can hope like crazy for Nate Strong or Damarea Crockett to show up in camp and immediately seize control of the starting running back job, but relying on newcomers to do that results in disappointment about 90 percent of the time. Witter is the bird in hand, and he was solid.
In all, running backs accounted for five of 19 receptions on the day, if you're looking to clues as to how a Heupel offense might differ from the last. Tight ends barely got involved -- Sean Culkin barely played (after the game, Barry Odom said he'd proved enough this spring) -- but running backs got the ball in a lot of different ways.
One harsh critique for Witter: His pitch back to Lock on the first-play-of-the-game flea flicker was dreadful. Lock almost had to call fair catch. It doomed the play. He also had an underthrow on a late-game trick play. So uh ... if 13 QBs get hurt, don't expect Witter to take over behind center.
(And yes, Mizzou started the game by attempting a flea flicker. I enjoyed that.)
Shaun Conway, meanwhile, is as agile as reporters said a few days ago. You never know how much to believe the "New walk-on is looking good!" stories, but Conway looked more dangerous than either Trevon Walters or Ryan Williams. He's very hard to tackle. (That's not really an indictment of Walters/Williams, by the way. They didn't get many chances to prove themselves.)
A big rotation of receivers
Chris Black played three snaps before tweaking his ankle and getting taken off for the day. Culkin barely played. Nate Brown had to lunge to make a short catch of a bad ball and left for the game. I was hoping to get a look at the rapport Lock had built with his presumptive starters -- Black, Moore, Nate Brown, Culkin -- and the two of them combined for two catches.
The good news, as it stands, was two-fold:
1. Moore's long TD really was pretty.
2. We got a glimpse of a lot of other guys. I guess that's a fair trade.
Keyon Dilosa caught three passes for 30 yards and nearly reeled in another bomb attempt from Lock. Richaud Floyd caught a touchdown dragging across the back of the end zone while Lock rolled right. Justin Smith lost another bomb attempt (from Lowary, I believe) in the sun but made a nice catch in traffic for the final touchdown. We saw a couple of Bob Stitt Specials, those jet sweep "passes" to Ray Wingo. Eric Laurent led receivers with four catches for 42 yards.
We know the defense is pretty good, so in the end, the fact that the top two QBs went 17-for-26 for 217 yards and three scores means the receivers very much got a passing grade for the day. And as with Witter, that's all you can hope for in April. The real tests start in about 4.5 months.
Two bombed center snaps.
I said on Friday that the only true impressions we could get of the offensive line would be bad ones. Witter, Walters, Williams, and Conway combined for 22 carries and 69 yards, which isn't particularly good but isn't horrific against this defense. Meanwhile, pass protection was solid for the most part -- two sacks in 38 attempts and no complete and total busts. Considering the freshmen and walk-ons that are involved in just getting a first- and second-string on the field, you'll take that.
The two bombed snaps, however, were obviously scary. One came on the opening series of the game (seriously, for those still a little traumatized by last year, the offense started out looking ... quite familiar in its iffy execution), and one came from the second string in the second half. Nothing to furrow the brow about in past tense, I guess.
I guess judging by the standard I set beforehand, the line wasn't awful, therefore it was fine.