My take on Mizzou vs Toledo

Yesterday I was finally able to watch my first Missouri football game. The week before the university shamefully put the game on pay-per-view, which to my knowledge was blacked out in Columbia except for certain locations. Unless I was at one of those locations, or had a physical radio–KTGR wisely decided not to stream the game online–I could not view/hear the game. Simply shameful to live in Columbia and not be able to watch the local team on opening weekend.

But this week ESPN picked up the game on ESPNU (with a quick switch to ESPNWS in the first half). I wanted to take some time to give my thoughts on the game. I’ll break them down into the three obvious categories: offense, defense, special teams.

Offense

The very first thing I have to say is that I’m super glad to see Henry Josey scoring again. His knee was all but destroyed in an injury two years ago. And now he’s back at Mizzou, on the field, playing football. He didn’t have a lot of yards yesterday. But he did have two rushing TDs. And I’ll take it.

Secondly, I loved Missouri QB, James the Tank Franklin, and how he played yesterday, over all. He threw a bad interception early. But then he settled down and played a great game. His down-the-field pass to set up Henry Josey’s first TD was a thing of beauty. His fade pass to Dorial Green-Beckham (DGB) was awesome. His use of his feet in the second half was judicious, running the speed option. Enjoyed it tremendously.

The problem was that in the first half, he took sacks because he held onto the ball too long. He appeared indecisive or trying too hard to get the ball to a receiver. Against Toledo, it might not have cost Mizzou the game. But against conference opponents like South Carolina, it will. 

The one thing I’d have to say is that Mizzou needs to do better getting DGB involved. They used him as a decoy, by that I mean he’d attract a double-team and Mizzou would run the ball away from him. But he needs the ball in his hands. Mizzou has to unleash him. Put him in motion across the formation to create mismatches with opposing defenses, matching him up against safeties and linebackers who cannot defend him. Line DGB in the slot to match him up against lesser quality defensive backs (nickel and dime backs).

Also, unleash the tight ends. In the late 2000s, Mizzou TEs were amazing. Chase Kaufman and Martin Rucker spearheaded an offensive attack that lead to Mizzou getting a national #1 ranking with a shot at the national championship instead of the 2-loss LSU Tigers, who won that year. Rucker was drafted and Jeremy Maclin filled in the void. But Kaufman was still there and a force to be reckoned with. Getting the TEs involved will force the linebackers and safeties to stay in the middle of the field, forcing one-on-one match-ups for the wide receivers.

Defense

The Mizzou defense was more disappointing yesterday than the offense. However, they did force 3 interceptions and ran one back for a score. When they got pressure on Toledo’s QB good things happened for the Missouri defense.

But Missouri’s defense got exposed a little, in the same way the Denver Broncos exposed the Steelers in the only playoff game Tim Tebow will probably win in his NFL career. In the Denver game, one of Pittsburg’s safeties was unable to play due to a heart condition that was life threatening to play in Denver’s altitude. The Steelers’ defense–one of the NFL’s best that year–was shredded by Tebow’s sub-par offense. In the second half of the Missouri game, yesterday, Missouri middle linebacker, Andrew Wilson, was ejected for targeting. He hit the receiver above the neck, and by rule he was rightly ejected–the merits of the rule can be debated. Wilson has been the team’s leading tackler for the last two seasons, a true anchor in the middle of Missouri’s defense–especially in the running game.

With Wilson gone, Missouri’s ability to tackle disappeared. Toledo has a solid running back. Their offensive line was opening holes. But no defender could stop him. The Toledo running back carved up Missouri’s defense in the second half. It’s completely unacceptable. The fact that Missouri’s defenders couldn’t shed blockers to make a play on the ball carrier was bad enough. But being unable to tackle was worse. Had the pass rush not forced three turnovers, including an interception in the end zone to prevent a Toledo score at the end of the first half.

But these weren’t my only complaints, inability to tackle and shed blocks against inferior talent compared to the SEC. The defense was playing way too soft on the outside. The cornerbacks were starting each play too far away from their opponents and the line of scrimmage. This allowed Toledo to better set up their screen game on the outside more efficiently. They needed to play tighter coverage.

Special Teams

Missouri’s special teams weren’t much to brag about either. Their kick coverage felt like it gave up too much of the field when pursuing down field on kick offs. Our returners didn’t break out many long returns either. Missouri’s offense didn’t have the greatest field position to start with and neither did Missouri’s defense.

Conclusion

A win is a win is a win. And I cannot say that enough. This is the last year of the Bowl Championship Series. To be eligible to play in a BCS bowl, or any bowl game, you need 6 wins. Missouri has 2. Only 4 more wins to get another bowl game. So even though I liked most of what I saw from Missouri’s offense and was disappointed in their defense, the win is most important. I’d grade the game as a B-. Hoping Missouri gets better next week.

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~ by hankimler on September 8, 2013.

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