Saturday, September 10, 2011
Lots of positives, negatives for MU in loss
By David Ubben
Ouch. Those are the losses that hurt the most for fans.
Missouri stormed back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth-quarter, but settled for a deep field-goal attempt late in the fourth quarter and -- in what's sure to be a controversial decision -- iced its own kicker.
Grant Ressel missed the 48-yard kick and the game went into overtime, where Missouri couldn't match Arizona State's touchdown and lost, 37-30.
Let's start with the nasty stuff.
- Argue the statistics surrounding icing kickers all you'd like. It's dubious if not counterproductive. But I've never seen a coach ice his own kicker, and unless Ressel explicitly asked for Pinkel to do it, I don't see the benefit. Additionally, Missouri went superconservative offensively once it was in field goal range, instead of fighting to get an easier attempt. Both of those decisions are ripe for second-guessing, and will be digested to no end throughout the week for the black-and-gold inclined. Outside of being embarrassingly unconventional, I don't see the huge harm of the kicker icing. I do think the Tigers needed to keep running their usual offense and ride the wave of momentum that got them there, rather than settle for a big kick from Ressel, who is usually reliable and a legitimate Lou Groza Award candidate.
- Ouch, secondary. It was out of position a lot throughout the night, and failed to make plays when it was in position several times. E.J. Gaines especially had a rough night, getting burned twice for scores by Aaron Pflugrad, who finished with eight catches for 180 yards. The secondary solidified late in the game, which was good to see, but Missouri took a huge step defensively under coordinator Dave Steckel last season. It looks like this year, with young corners, it may take a step back. There's lots of room for growth, sure, but the Tigers better do it fast. There are a lot better offenses than Arizona State waiting for the Tigers in the Big 12. Osweiler would probably be the fifth or sixth best QB in the Big 12, and he finished with 353 yards, three TDs, no turnovers and completed 24 of 32 (77 percent) passes. Not good.
- The flip side of those secondary struggles? Where was the defensive line? The Tigers are the most talented in the Big 12, but didn't look like it on Friday. It didn't reach Osweiler often, and where was top pass-rusher Brad Madison? His spin move wasn't working and he was quiet when Missouri needed him to step up. The defense was much better late when momentum turned, but Osweiler picked apart the defense for the better part of the night, in part because of the lack of pressure up front.
- Awful luck for Missouri at running back. Henry Josey was great (9 carries for 94 yards), but we'll see how long De'Vion Moore is out. He injured his ankle on the opening drive and didn't return. Missouri had four great backs to begin fall camp. Now, with starter Kendial Lawrence sidelined with a broken fibula, Moore out and Marcus Murphy likely done for the season with shoulder surgery, Josey may be leaned on a whole lot more. Those guys combined for 1,557 yards and 19 TDs last year, but two games into the season, only one is standing. Josey accounted for 437 yards, five scores and 76 carries as a freshman in 2010.
- Arizona's penalties stole the show, but Missouri was undisciplined, too. The Tigers had 11 for 114 yards, compared to Arizona State's 12 for 110 yards. Bad, bad, bad.
- What a difference a week makes for James Franklin. He's going to be sporadic all year, but he's going to improve fast, too. He had some awful throws, yes, but he had a lot more good ones, and kept Missouri alive with a handful of high-pressure passes in big positions. It's a loss, and he didn't make a play in OT when Mizzou needed it most, but you've got to feel good about the future behind Franklin. His mechanics looked better, he was more accurate, and did a decent job of running when he needed to. Very good signs.
- Missouri needed more receivers to show up and help out T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew with a banged-up Jerrell Jackson in uniform, and they answered. Marcus Lucas had a huge catch in the fourth quarter to get the Tigers into scoring position, and finished with four catches for 87 yards. L'Damian Washington also had a big catch in traffic on a beautiful throw from Franklin to cut the lead to 30-23 in the fourth quarter. He finished with three catches for 39 yards. Six different receivers had at least two receptions, and Josey caught two for 51 yards. All good things for Missouri's offense.
- The offensive line looked rough late in the game, but without left tackle Elvis Fisher and center Travis Ruth, the patchwork line had a pretty good game, especially against a good front seven. Vontaze Burfict wasn't running wild, which is a nice start. The offensive line didn't play so well in overtime, but Franklin had room to operate for most of the game and wasn't rushed too often. Not great, but good. Like Franklin, they'll get better as they move along without Fisher for the season and whenever Ruth returns from his sprained knee.