Saturday, September 22, 2007
ETS now has an unhealthy mancrush on Jeremy "the X-factor J-Mac" Maclin and all he stands for. To steal a line from one of ETS' favorite blogs Every Day Should Be Saturday, "a thousand cocktails" to Jeremy Maclin and his enormous contribution to Mizzou's undefeated record entering conference play.
But on a day that honored America with the above flyover, we honor you, Missouri Tigers, for a 38-17 win over the Illinois State Redbirds on Saturday.
And with the game concluding, that means it's time for Good, Bad, and Indifferent.
Tiger's Lair knows it's time for Good, Bad and Indifferent.
-- Jeff Wolfert kickoffs: ETS usually likes to start with offense, but figures its time to give the special teams its due. Wolfert and his coverage team were outstanding against Illinois State. The Redbirds best field position following a kick was their own 30 yard line, and their average first play from scrimmage following a kickoff was around the 23-yard-line. Winning the field position battle could be huge in conference play, so this development is potentially pivotal.
-- First half tackling: For most of the first half, the Missouri pursuit was actually met with solid tackling. Whether lineman, linebackers, or defensive backs, it looked like the Tigers were wrapping up and finishing plays.
-- Redzone defense: The redzone defense, especially in the first half, was outstanding. Gaps were filled, wide outs were covered, and the defensive line got outstanding penetration. The success makes me wish Mizzou would move an eighth man into the box further upfield to stop the run, gambling to stop the run at the risk of giving up a deep ball.
-- Sean Weatherspoon: Not only did Weatherspoon fly to the ball all day, he even entertained the crowd with a Merriman-esque "Lights Out" dance in the second half. Weatherspoon once again led the team in tackles (with 12) and seemed to always be around the ball.
-- Young RB Trio: Jimmy Jackson, Earl Goldsmith, and Derrick Washington were all outstanding in brief spells for Tony Temple. The three combined for 64 combined yards on 10 carries, and Washington added 25 yards receiving on a beautiful catch in traffic. The three are not exactly bruising, north-south type runners, but they add a great ground dimension to this offense this year and into the future.
-- Will Franklin: Once again came up big in several situations, including taking the first play from scrimmage 57 yards for a touchdown untouched on a bubble screen. However, one of his best plays came later in the game, knocking away a potential interception on a horrid throw from Chase Daniel directed straight at a waiting Redbird defensive back.
-- The crowd: I was not impressed with the crowd against Western Michigan last week, but I was somewhat proud of the 56,137 at Faurot, especially for a less than marketable matchup (scheduling is another post for another day). The crowd waned in both enthusiasm and numbers as the game wore on, but given the opponent, the early showing alone was semi-impressive.
-- Did I mention that Jeremy Maclin is "kinda good?" Maclin became the first Tiger in 32 years to return two punts for touchdowns in a season, adding a 64-yard punt return for touchdown in the fourth quarter. My adrenaline pumps metric tons whenever Maclin gets the ball in space, or even better, on the run (like he did on the return).
-- Well, congratulations Geno Blow - you're the latest winner of the "Face the Missouri Run Defense" sweepstakes! Blow was the beneficiary of the defensive line struggling and the linebackers have issues with play recognition, punishing Missouri with several angry runs. Blow finished with 116 yards on 21 carries. However, the Tigers did manage to contain the rest of the Redbird runners, who combined for only 39 yards.
-- Blitz pickup: On several different occasions, the offensive line looked confused and confounded in blitz pickup. On Chase Daniel's first interception, his decision making was likely hampered by the sight of seeing a defender completely blow past a 360-spinning Colin Brown. Granted, perhaps Chase should have just accepted a loss on a sack on that play, but Missouri's trouble reading some exterior blitzes may come back to haunt them in conference play.
-- Ineffectiveness of the Mizzou blitz: The Missouri coaching staff was surprisingly aggressive in the second half, calling numerous zone blitzes and sending linebackers and safeties on several occasions. But the Tigers execution on the blitzes was mediocre at best, merely exposing players in coverage and often providing little to no pressure on Luke Drone.
-- Vulnerability of soft zone: For the second straight week, the opponent was able to nickel and dime Mizzou down the field on outs, hooks, and drags while defensive backs were turned running backwards to fill zones. Plus, if the coaches don't trust the corners to play man defense against Illinois State, is there any hope for man defense against any Big 12 teams? Should we just expect Mizzou to give teams those five or six yard completions all the way down the field.
-- Playing time: Was it me, or was the first team offense exposed to injury for WAY too long because the game was still somewhat in doubt?
-- In warm up, Mizzou ran several plays with quarterbacks literally under center/not in the shotgun, including a number of stretch plays. Oh Gary Pinkel, why must you tease me so?
-- Key to success: It seems like Mizzou's defensive success is largely a function of its play on first down. It seems like Mizzou's stops come only when the Tigers are able to stuff a run or force an incompletion on first down. Any more than four or five yards on first down, and the Tiger defense seems defeated until another set of downs.
-- Chase Daniel: With wonderkid once again looked average and extremely fallible. I can't classify him as bad, given his line (21-34, 294 yards, 3 TD), but for the second straight week, Daniel didn't appear to be in complete control. Daniel probably shouldn't have trusted his arm trying to throw the ball away on the first interception, and his second interception was a great play by Tom Nelson sliding across the top of the endzone to cover a temporarily open Martin Rucker. Daniel was not bad, but I was hoping for a little more than "not bad" heading into conference play.
-- Bend but don't break defense: The defense bent but did not break on most drives, coming up with big redzone stops. Can they bend without breaking against Big 12 defenses?
Jeremy Maclin (repeat winner)
ETS UNSUNG HERO AWARD:
Photos courtesy Joel Kowsky, Charles Ludeke, LG Patterson