Saturday, October 16, 2010
Missouri rolls over Texas A&M into OU
By David Ubben
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Missouri entered Saturday's game against Texas A&M looking for a win in the same stadium where a 6-0 start was derailed four years ago during the Tigers' last visit.
It did that and plenty more, pitching a first-half shutout against one of the Big 12's best offenses and rolling to a 30-9 win at Kyle Field.
The Tigers' defense smothered the Aggies most of the afternoon.
Missouri didn't need big plays. Its longest play was 45 yards, and the next-longest went for 28.
It didn't need turnovers; neither team committed one.
Missouri was three touchdowns better than Texas A&M and the Tigers spent 60 minutes proving it.
"You earn respect," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said of his defense, which limited Texas A&M to just 130 yards of offense in the game's first 35 minutes, and led 23-0 early in the third quarter. "That's just what you do."
The Tigers did plenty of it, sending a Texas A&M team with big dreams to a third consecutive loss -- the first of the season on its home field, marring one of the team's preseason goals of going undefeated at Kyle Field. The Aggies' vaunted 12th Man headed for the exits early in the Tigers' win, but the pocket of black and gold stood in the southeast corner of the stadium waiting to celebrate with its still-undefeated team. Now, the Tigers head back to Columbia for a homecoming showdown with Oklahoma, a team that kept Missouri from achieving BCS dreams with three victories in two years over the Tigers during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
"You could see it in everybody's eyes today, that they were in the zone," said Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
He says he has game tape of the Sooners on his cell phone, and film study starts on the flight back home.
But for at least a few minutes -- 12 hours for the rest of the team, Pinkel said with a smile -- Missouri can savor its best performance of the year, waiting to fix what minuscule mistakes it made in this masterpiece for a few more hours.
"Trust me," Pinkel said, "I've got a list of things."
Missouri's Blaine Gabbert threw for 3,186 yards and completed 63.4 percent of his passes last season.
Gabbert, playing with a hip pointer and a previously undisclosed rib injury Pinkel perhaps mistakenly alluded to after the game, lined up against a defense that flustered and frustrated a Heisman hopeful in Ryan Mallett a week ago. The junior completed 31 of 47 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, both season highs.
T.J. Moe, Wes Kemp and Michael Egnew combined for 26 of those completions and 305 yards, along with all three touchdowns.
"Really, distributing the ball to all our receivers left the defense unbalanced," Gabbert said. "We were just focusing on what they were giving us, just taking completions. Those guys were my completion guys today and they made a bunch of plays."
They did it without much pressure from the offense on the opposite sideline. The defense didn't allow the Aggies to take a snap on the Missouri side of the field until the second quarter was more than halfway over, winning the field position battle easily. By then, Missouri already led 13-0.
Perhaps most impressive was the defense's effort came without the aid of sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith, who entered the game as the Tigers' best defensive talent. He didn't make the trip, missing his third consecutive game with a broken fibula.
"I don't know how many superstars we've got -- great, great players," Pinkel said. "But we've got a lot of good players, I guarantee you that. And when we play well, we're pretty good."
Never better than on Saturday. And for all the superstar talent on teams past, Pinkel's team is 6-0 all the same, likely headed for a top-20 matchup with Oklahoma next Saturday, a team Pinkel has never beaten.
"I'm glad it's in The Zou," Pinkel said. "We're excited."