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Missouri-Nevada first-half analysis

9/25/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some of the trends I've noticed in Missouri's 12-7 halftime lead over Nevada.

Turning point: Blaine Gabbert eluded pressure and remained upright before hitting Danario Alexander for a 31-yard TD grab to enable Missouri to grab the halftime lead. The touchdown enabled the Tigers to overcome a sputtering start and take the lead at the break.

Stat of the half: Missouri has produced 20 yards of rushing offense in the first half, with 14 coming on one run by Jarrell Jackson. On Missouri's other 14 carries in the first half, they produced 6 rushing rushing yards, for an average of 0.4 yards per carry

Best player in the half: Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander, who repeatedly ran free in the Nevada secondary against the smaller and seemingly slower Wolf Pack secondary. Alexander provided three clutch receptions for third-down conversions, including two catches on the scoring drive including the touchdown.

Best call: After struggling to keep Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in check early in the game, the Tigers seemed more intent in covering him during the second quarter. The extra attention worked out as Kaepernick was only 2-for-7 with three sacks in the second quarter.

What Missouri needs to do: The Tigers were a different defensive team in the second quarter after stifling Kaepernick as the second quarter progesses. If that can continue and the Tigers can get their running game going, they should be able to escape Nevada's upset bid.

What Nevada needs to do: After losing leading rusher Vai Taua to an elbow injury after Nevada's first possession, the Wolf Pack need to develop enough passing to balance with their running game. The Wolf Pack had trouble with Missouri defensive coordiantor Dave Steckel's blitz packages as the game progresses and must protect Kaepernick better. And the defense, which played much better than expected, can't let the bigger and taller Missouri receivers wear them down as the game continues.