NCF Nation: Jerrell Jackson

Missouri's James Franklin had just 47 yards passing in the first half.

He had more than that in one drive that went 94 yards in nine plays to put Missouri up 17-10 in the third quarter.

He looked much more comfortable on that drive and has yet to throw an incompletion in the second half after throwing three interceptions in the first.

That included a pair of difficult throws, a 22-yard strike over the middle to Jerrell Jackson before a pretty, lofted ball over the top of the defense for a 25-yard score to Wes Kemp that gave the Tigers a lead.

Mizzou got a nice break on a bad long snap on a punt earlier in the quarter that set up the first touchdown, but Franklin has shown some great mental makeup in this half. It'd be easy to get discouraged after the kind of performance Franklin had in the first 30 minutes, and he did look uncomfortable before heading into the locker.

Since then, he's looked as good throwing the ball as he has all season. Certainly a welcome sight for Missouri, who's taken control of this game.
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.

THE BAD
  • 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.
THE GOOD
  • 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.
Moving on in our rankings of the top 10 at each position in the Big 12 entering 2011.

Here are the top 10s you've missed so far:
There's no question that receiver is the strongest position for the Big 12, which has the most talent at the position of any conference in America. Considering the lack of elite talents on the defensive line and at cornerback in this league, look for these guys to put up big numbers this season.

[+] EnlargeJustin Blackmon
Chuck Cook/US PresswireOklahoma State's Justin Blackmon enters the season as arguably the best receiver in the nation.
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon's big year met a big finish, earning him the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. He'll be the favorite again this year thanks to his quarterback's decision to return. Last season he had 111 catches for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. His touchdown and yardage numbers led the nation in 2010, and he also topped our ranking of the Big 12's top 25 players in 2010.

2. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma: Broyles lost his spot as the Big 12's top receiver, but he's still a Biletnikoff finalist and my pick as the nation's No. 2 receiver, right behind Blackmon. Broyles led the nation with 131 catches a season ago, turning them into 1,620 yards and 14 scores as a valuable piece of the Sooners' passing game, long and short. Broyles (5-foot-10, 188 pounds) doesn't have Blackmon's size (6-foot-1, 315 pounds), but what he lacks in the ability to muscle up defenders, he possesses in a feel for space and precision route-running.

3. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: Fuller might get more attention if he played in another league, but he's sadly a bit overlooked in the Big 12 behind Broyles and Blackmon, doomed to difficulty earning All-Big 12 first-team honors, despite being the first Texas A&M receiver to ever record a 1,000-yard season and staking a solid claim as one of college football's top five receivers. Look for Fuller to top his 1,066 yards, 72 catches and 12 scores this year.

4. T.J. Moe, Missouri: This fourth spot is close, but I went with Moe, who lacks the physical speed and strength of Kendall Wright, but has perhaps unrivaled sense for space among any receiver in the Big 12, save Broyles. Just 19 attempts separated Missouri and Baylor's passing offenses, but Moe caught 14 more passes than Wright and accounted for almost 100 more yards, catching just one fewer touchdown. You could make a case for Wright at No. 4, but I'm going with Moe for now.

5. Kendall Wright, Baylor: He's the top target for Robert Griffin III, and if Josh Gordon's suspension carries through the season opener, the Bears will need a big game from the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder to beat TCU. He's topped 50 catches and 600 yards in each of the past three seasons with constant improvement, but 2011 might be the year he finally tops the 1,000-yard mark.

6. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma: Stills is one of two sophomores on this list, and no other freshman receivers in 2010 really came close to his production. Stills showed lots of promise in spring and fall camp after enrolling early, and finished with 786 yards and five touchdowns on 61 catches, entrenching himself as the Sooners' No. 2 target and the heir apparent to Broyles, who will be a senior in 2011. Much bigger things should be ahead for Stills.

7. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Swope proved a huge complement to Fuller, hauling in some of the biggest catches of the season for the Aggies, including touchdowns against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He finished with 825 yards and four touchdowns on 72 receptions, and should be poised for similar production in a similar role this season.

8. Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State: Cooper gets overlooked with the amount of talent in the Big 12, but he was a huge part of Oklahoma State's passing game last season, catching 68 passes for 736 yards and five touchdowns. He might have to hold off teammate Hubert Anyiam for touches in 2011 to remain on this list, but for now, Cooper gets some recognition for a job well done that not enough people saw.

9. Alex Torres, Texas Tech: Torres' numbers (39 rec, 481 yards, 3 TD) took a tumble in 2010, but I give him the benefit of the doubt and keep him on this list after battling through a frustrating back injury for the majority of his sophomore season. He's got tons of promise, and as long as he stays healthy, should get plenty of opportunities as a junior in 2011 after the Red Raiders lost both of their top two receivers from last season's team.

10. Mike Davis, Texas: Davis needs help from his offensive line and especially his quarterback (whoever it ends up being), but he was impressive enough to become one of the Longhorns' top receivers as just a freshman, catching 47 passes for 478 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If Texas' offense improves, look for Davis' numbers to skyrocket and flirt with 1,000 yards.

Just missed: Josh Gordon, Baylor; Jerrell Jackson, Missouri
The Big 12 might be weak at the top of the running back heap, but it's definitely not at receiver. The conference has at least three of the top five receivers in the country, and the top two. They highlight a very strong group of receivers across the league, and I continue our position rankings with receivers today.

Remember that depth plays a big part of these rankings. We'll be ranking the top 10 individuals at each position later on before the season begins.

Other position rankings: 1. Oklahoma

[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMIRyan Broyles finished the 2010 season with 131 catches for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Sooners have the nation's No. 2 receiver, Ryan Broyles, but found a handful of others to surround him in 2010 and should have a couple more in 2011. Sophomore Kenny Stills broke Broyles' freshman receiving record and looks like a budding star. Dejuan Miller came on strong before a season-ending knee injury, but he's back. The Sooners lose Cameron Kenney, but Trey Franks had a strong freshman campaign, and freshmen Justin McCay (redshirt) and Trey Metoyer could provide even more playmakers.

2. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys boast the returning Biletnikoff Award winner and 2011 favorite, Justin Blackmon, with a great group around him, too. Slot machine Josh Cooper returns for his senior year, and fellow senior Hubert Anyiam (the team's leading receiver in 2009) is hoping to return to form after being slowed by an ankle injury in 2010. Isaiah Anderson is a shifty speedster, while Michael Harrison and Tracy Moore offer a more aerial approach to receiving.

3. Texas A&M

The Aggies have the Big 12's No. 3 receiver, Jeff Fuller, who is arguably one of the top-five in the college game. But they also have the Big 12's most experienced receiving unit, with guys who won't be surprised by anything they see in Big 12 play. Juniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu are the team's second and third options, but fellow juniors Kenric McNeal and Brandal Jackson could be bigger pieces of the offense in 2011. Tight end Nehemiah Hicks should see his profile rise in his coming sophomore year.

4. Baylor

Top target Kendall Wright will likely end his career as the Bears' leading receiver for all four of his seasons on the field, and 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Josh Gordon looks like the new Jeff Fuller. Terrance Williams, Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese round out the Bears' top five, who all had at least 40 catches last season, and all return.

5. Missouri

Missouri still lacks a proven big-play threat, but has two pass-catchers who have some of the best hands in the game. Receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew won't drop many passes, and combined to catch 182 for 1,807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson bring a lot of experience and both had at least 39 catches last season. If Marcus Lucas or Rolandis Woodland can become a consistent downfield threat, Missouri will rise up these rankings by season's end.

6. Texas Tech

Tech's top two receivers, Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis, must be replaced, but the Red Raiders have a few solid candidates to do it. Junior Alex Torres will likely lead the group, but fellow junior Austin Zouzalik and seniors Jacoby Franks and Tramain Swindall will be counted on for more production. Dark horse/juco newcomer Marcus Kennard could blossom into a household name across the Big 12 by season's end.

7. Texas

Sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt freshman Darius White are loaded with potential, but two of the team's top three receivers (James Kirkendoll, John Chiles) are gone, and no Texas receiver caught more than two touchdowns last season. Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin are as different as two receivers could be, but both need to break out to help whoever becomes the Longhorns quarterback next fall.

8. Kansas State

Brodrick Smith will be back this season after breaking his leg in a loss to Nebraska. But two of the team's top three receivers are gone, leaving converted quarterback Chris Harper as the leading returner, though Smith might have held that title if he'd stayed healthy. Sophomore speedster Tramaine Thompson can make plays if he gets the ball with some space.

9. Iowa State

The Cyclones will be breaking in a new quarterback this season and they will need a playmaker to step up. Tight end Collin Franklin led team in receiving last season but he is now gone. Darius Reynolds looks like a possible candidate to fill the role, although incoming slot receiver Aaron Horne might rack up a few catches in space. Darius Darks and Josh Lenz should earn some more targets too.

10. Kansas

Converted defensive back Daymond Patterson is the team's top receiver, but the team's No. 3 receiver junior Bradley McDougald, moved to safety in the middle of the season. Tight end Tim Biere is one of the Big 12's best and led the team with four touchdowns last season. Chris Omigie and D.J. Beshears have some potential, and converted quarterback Christian Matthews keeps showing up in spring games. But all three, along with the rest of the group, would benefit from some consistency at the quarterback spot.
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- I hope you've enjoyed our coverage from Mizzou the past few days. If you aren't one of my most faithful readers, here's a refresher.
But not everything fit neatly into those stories. I've got plenty more on the Tigers from my visit to Columbia.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireJames Franklin may need to be more assertive if he wants to become a leader on offense.
Quarterbacks are the focus of spring for the Tigers, but there's no doubt, it's going to be a bit of an adjustment if James Franklin wins the job. That's no guarantee, and Tyler Gabbert has come on strong this spring, but Franklin is just a completely different type of person than the fiery Chase Daniel or uber-competitive Blaine Gabbert. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing. Offensive coordinator David Yost told me he wants each new quarterback doing things his own way, and that includes his demeanor and actions off the field.

"Blaine and Chase were different, and Blaine did a good job of not just copying Chase. He took what Chase did and tried to make it fit him and how he dealt with players, getting himself ready to play," Yost said.

Franklin will have to do something similar. Tyler Gabbert, who has come on strong of late in practices, is a much more heated competitor. "Sometimes you have to calm him down because he gets very, very 'on,'" Yost said. "He wants to make every throw. It’s great to have that, but you can’t let that affect the next play, so he’s kind of learning that."

Franklin is a much more easy-going type of guy. He's nowhere near as outspoken. It'll just be different. I believe it was Rene Descartes who said, "Different strokes for different folks." Seems to fit this scenario.

"I’m not too vocal as a quarterback. As a person, I talk a lot, but once I come on the field, I’m not as vocal. It’s something I hadn’t really done in the past, so it’s something I need to adjust to," Franklin said.

Coaches have told him that sometimes his silence, especially after negative plays, can come off as bad body language, so even if his head is clear, his actions have to communicate positive messages to teammates. Sometimes his quiet demeanor meant his teammates didn't even realize who had thrown them the ball in practice.

"They’d come back and say 'Hey, nice throw James' or 'Good call,' and I’m like, 'That wasn’t me, that was Ashton or that was Tyler," Franklin said. "To me, I’m thinking, 'How could they not know?' For one, I’m just a little bit taller and my skin is like 50 shades darker. But they’re just kind of in the zone, so if I’m more vocal and demanding of them, they kind of recognize 'hey, that was me.'"

The thing is, he has to do it naturally, and managing that balance will be a key for all three quarterbacks' development. Franklin can't just turn into an animated screamer overnight. That would only come off as disingenuous and be more counterproductive than anything.

"Being more vocal will help. Not only as a quarterback, but also as a person, because it should show you leadership and you demand things out of your offense.

  • You get the sense Yost could talk about Blaine Gabbert and what he's meant to the program for hours. I'm sure he could. But when it comes to influencing younger quarterbacks, it's easy to see why. "You’d go up for room check [the night before road games] and Blaine’s sitting in his bed with his iPod in and his computer on his lap watching cut-ups," Yost said. "Every week. That'd be at 11 o'clock and at meetings the next day I’d ask what he watched, and he'd tell me. I'd ask when he got to bed, and he’d say, 'Ah, it was about 1:30.'" Franklin roomed with Gabbert on the road, and his younger brother surely saw some of that.
  • Passing down lessons like that is nothing new. When Blaine Gabbert came into the program, he'd spend about two hours a day during the summer as a freshman with Chase Daniel watching tape. He wasn't watching the offense by then. He was looking at the defense. "Where are they moving? Backing up? Where can I get throws? When this guy does this, this opens up," Yost said. And because of those summer film sessions, "Blaine was way ahead of where Chase was in understanding defenses at the same spot in camp their sophomore years," he said. The idea, of course, is that continues with the younger quarterbacks.
  • Speaking of Gabbert, Yost loved how he blossomed into a "quarterback" after coming to Mizzou as a "thrower." "He was a tremendous, highly recruited thrower out of high school, but he bought into becoming a great quarterback," Yost said. He did it by first learning how to study film from Daniel and carrying it on once Daniel left and he became a starter. "People look and say, 'Well, his passing yards are down,'" Yost said. "But he became more of a quarterback because of how he prepared each week."
  • Part of the reason for that dip was Missouri's lack of a vertical passing game in 2010, which is are of focus this spring. Tyler Gabbert has the arm strength. Yost likes Franklin's deep ball a lot. But somebody's got to catch it. I did think it was funny that Yost cited my look at explosive plays across the Big 12 in our conversation. The number of plays longer than 20 yards didn't drop much for Missouri (73 in '08, 66 in '09 and 63 in '10), but the longer plays did. "We were still getting our 20-yard plays, but instead of having Danario [Alexander] take a 20 yarder to a 60-yarder, we were getting that 24-yarder. Even when you go back to 2008 when we had Maclin, the numbers were a lot higher than last year," he said. "Anytime you can get those, it takes off so much pressure. You could feel it last year. Guys were tightening up on us. We didn’t hit a lot downfield last year, and that was more disappointing than anything. We took some shots, and there were some games when we’d be at halftime and we’ve thrown the ball downfield eight times and we’re 0-for-8. Either we could have thrown it better, could have caught it, protected better and given him a better chance, there was a multitude of things. It wasn’t just one reason. But you hit those, it changes a game."
  • Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp have the ability to get vertical, even if they lack Alexander or Jeremy Maclin's straight-line speed. The potential is there for younger receivers such as Marcus Lucas and Wesley Leftwich, or older ones such as L'Damian Washington or Rolandis Woodland who have had modest careers thus far. But someone has to do it. Missouri has the rare opportunity to bring back every single receiver on its roster from last year, and it added Leftwich, who enrolled early and has 4.4 speed, according to Yost. But for Michael Egnew and T.J. Moe to be their most productive, someone has to stretch the defense.

Recruiting needs: Big 12 North

January, 26, 2011
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Signing day is exactly a week from today, and it's time to take a look at who needs what in its 2011 class.

Some schools have addressed these with their current class. Some haven't. Others are still trying.

We'll kick things off with the artists formerly known as the Big 12 North and examine the South later today.

COLORADO

Cornerback: Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith were pretty reliable for the Buffaloes, but both are headed to the NFL, and the Buffaloes could definitely use some depth behind their first-year starters. It's not quite as pressing of an issue considering their move to the less pass-happy Pac-12, but they still like to sling it out west.

Receiver: Colorado isn't exactly starving anywhere on offense, but receiver sticks out a bit. Toney Clemons was good, but maybe not quite what the Buffaloes hoped he'd be in 2010, but they caught a break in getting Paul Richardson back after a great freshman season. The Buffaloes need some complementary pieces around Clemons and Richardson to replace departed pass-catchers Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson. Next year, that should be tight end Ryan Deehan and receiver Will Jefferson.

IOWA STATE

Receiver: It's been a struggle for Iowa State in recent years, but they have to get better outside to help out their quarterback. Sedrick Johnson's transfer only worsens the Cyclones depth at the position, but Jake Williams and tight end Collin Franklin, the team's leading receiver, are gone. Shontrelle Johnson looks ready to become a big factor in the offense, but the Cyclones filling the space at receiver will make it easier for Johnson to replace running back Alexander Robinson.

Safety: Both starters, David Sims and Zac Sandvig, are gone. So is the Cyclones top reserve at the position, Michael O'Connell. Sims was a top-notch talent that will be tough to replace, but Iowa State needs more depth here. They should be solid at corner with Leonard Johnson, Ter'ran Benton, Jeremy Reeves and Anthony Young, which could make the new safeties' jobs easier.

KANSAS

Defensive line: KU is losing three of four starters on the line, including the team's only All-Big 12 talent, defensive end Jake Laptad. Turner Gill wants more speed, and this is a place to install it. Tackles that tip the scales at 320 pounds aren't too necessary in this league, but speed on the edge can go a long way in stopping the pass.

Quarterback: Neither Jordan Webb or Quinn Mecham look like long-term answers at quarterback for the Jayhawks. Mecham will be a senior, and Webb might develop into a better player as a sophomore next year, but Kansas needs other options. The Jayhawks hope Brock Berglund, the top-rated recruit in Colorado, is the solution to the problem.

KANSAS STATE

Running back: I hear your cries for Bryce Brown, Wildcats fans, but K-State can't expect to hitch their wagon to the former blue-chip recruit turned Tennessee transfer in the same way it did for Daniel Thomas. Thomas and his backup, William Powell, are gone, and the Wildcats need some depth at running back to show up.

Interior offensive linemen: K-State loses both guards and its center from an offense that produced the Big 12's leading rusher in 2010. Don't expect them to do it again in 2011 without Wade Weibert, Kenneth Mayfield and Zach Kendall, as well as Thomas and Powell, but finding some new talent behind them will help them come close.

Cornerback: David Garrett emerged as a budding star in 2010 ready for a breakout senior year in 2011, but the Wildcats lose Terrance Sweeney and Stephen Harrison, as well as safety Troy Butler. Like we've mentioned earlier, good secondaries are a must for success in the Big 12, and K-State had one of the league's worst in 2010.

MISSOURI

Receiver: Missouri has some good ones ready to suit up in 2011, namely Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and T.J. Moe, but the Tigers don't have a true gamebreaker. They have some younger players in Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt who they hope will develop into big-time, All-American caliber receivers, a la Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander. In Missouri's system, though, adding a few receivers is always a good idea. They certainly don't need any more running backs.

Defensive backs: Mizzou doesn't have any huge holes that need to be filled with recruiting, but the Tigers lose both corners, Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland from their 2010 team. Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines look likely to fill those roles, but the Tigers could use some depth and keep recruiting in the secondary to help add some talent around Tavon Bolden and Matt White, safeties who will replace departed Jarrell Harrison, who actually had to play some linebacker in 2010 because of injuries.

NEBRASKA

Every kind of kicker: Alex Henery, the team's punter and kicker is gone. So is kickoff specialist and lover/producer of touchbacks, Adi Kunalic. Fan favorite Henery was hardly underappreciated by the Nebraska faithful, but they'll miss him even more if the Huskers can't find a suitable placekicker and punter. Bo Pelini was reportedly after Wake Forest commit Mauro Bondi this week.

Receiver: Niles Paul and Mike McNeill are gone. The Huskers need Brandon Kinnie to come through with another good year and it'd be nice if Quincy Enunwa broke through in 2011, but Taylor Martinez needs some more help at wide out, and a couple new recruits could provide it as Martinez's passing prowess matures.

Instant analysis: Iowa 27, Missouri 24

December, 29, 2010
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That's a crushing loss for Missouri, who looked like it was in complete control before a mistake by the team's best player swung the game in Iowa's favor. Here's some instant analysis from the Tigers' 27-24 loss.

How the game was won: Blaine Gabbert rolled to his left and tried to loft a ball across his body to Wes Kemp, but Iowa's Micah Hyde intercepted the pass and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to put Iowa up 27-24 and provide the final score. Iowa's offense looked lackluster in the second half, but the Hawkeyes defense gave them enough to get over the hump and close the season with a win instead of a four-game losing streak.

Turning point: The interception was a big one, but T.J. Moe made what he thought was a diving catch in Iowa territory on 4th-and-6 with Missouri trailing by three and just more than two minutes to play. More on that later.

Stat of the game: Iowa's offensive points in the game's first 20 minutes: 17. Offensive points in the final 40 minutes: three. It's really that simple for the Hawkeyes. They rolled over Missouri early on, beginning with a dominant opening drive and a 62-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but in the second half, Iowa looked sluggish and quarterback Ricky Stanzi wasn't sharp, throwing a pair of interceptions during the 40-minute stretch after tossing just four the entire season coming into the Insight Bowl.

Player of the game: Marcus Coker, RB, Iowa. Missouri's defense will head back to Columbia with visions of the 6-foot, 230-pound Coker for quite awhile. The freshman bruised the Tigers' defense for the better part of the game and racked up an Insight Bowl-record 219 yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns.

Player of the game II: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. Outside of his inexplicable interception, Gabbert had one of his best games ever. Iowa's defense played a soft zone for much of the game before switching to man late, but Gabbert sliced up the Hawkeyes defense for 434 yards on 41-of-57 passing with a touchdown and a pair of picks. Again, the interceptions aside, Gabbert made good decisions for the majority of the game, had lots of zip on the ball and looked as accurate as ever. Receivers Jerrell Jackson (9 rec, 129 yards) and T.J. Moe (15 rec, 152 yards) had big nights, but Gabbert's arm was the reason why. The Tigers looked downfield more than they worked the screen game, and Gabbert delivered.

Unsung hero of the game: The crowd. Conflicting black-and-gold colors made it difficult to tell who brought more, but Missouri certainly helped its "our fans don't travel" perception with an Insight Bowl record crowd of 53,453. Iowa and Missouri fans both made lengthy cross-country trips to fill Sun Devil Stadium. The past three seasons have resulted in what Missouri fans could fairly consider slights by bowl committee, but in the future, the school can point to this game as evidence to the perception's contrary.

Second guessing: The replay decision late in the fourth quarter on Moe's catch. My gut says Moe didn't have full possession of the ball as he slid out of bounds, but based on the replays provided, it didn't look like there was conclusive evidence to overturn the call. Maybe the right call in reality, but based on the way the replay rules are written, the wrong one in practice.

What it means: Missouri suffers a second consecutive disappointing bowl loss. The Tigers were only a three-point favorite, but a loss to an unranked 7-5 team when a team enters a bowl game at 10-2 and ranked No. 12 never looks good. Last year, Missouri couldn't slow Navy's option attack and dropped a 35-13 game to the Midshipmen. For Missouri, the loss could pay off in 2011. Gabbert is a pretty even-keeled player, but a it's hard to see a competitor of his caliber feeling comfortable moving to the NFL with this kind of cap on an otherwise excellent career. The smart money was probably on Gabbert staying at Missouri for his senior year, but it'd be very surprising if he left now.

Vote: Capital One Impact Performance

October, 25, 2010
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Time to vote for the Capital One Impact Performance of the Week. Here are your nominees:

Michigan State's Aaron Bates completes a 21-yard pass on a fake punt to beat Northwestern.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton runs for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a win against LSU.

Mizzou's Jerrell Jackson catches nine passes for 139 yards and a touchdown in a win against Oklahoma.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez throws for five touchdowns and racks up 435 total yards in a win against Oklahoma State.
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Tim Barnes remembers well. He should, he was there.

Missouri's senior center had -- in the most frustrating sense -- a front-row seat to Oklahoma's dominance on the line of scrimmage in three victories over the Tigers in 2007 and 2008.

Missouri left as losers, never coming within single digits of the Sooners, who celebrated a pair of Big 12 titles and a national championship appearance at the Tigers' expense.

"They pretty much handled us up front," Barnes said.

The quiet flights home from Norman and later San Antonio in 2007. A year later, the bus from Kansas City.

[+] EnlargeDe'Vion Moore
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonDe'Vion Moore celebrates one of Missouri's two rushing TDs against Oklahoma. The Tigers rushed for 178 yards against the nation's No. 1 team.
There wasn't much silence in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, following the Tigers' 36-27 win over No. 1 Oklahoma -- and there won't be in this midwestern college town for some time.

The Tigers' linemen on both sides of the ball are to thank.

"Our ability to run the football for 178 yards was huge. The offensive line played very, very well," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who earned his first-ever win over Oklahoma and the program's first-ever win over a No. 1 team.

Blaine Gabbert completed 30 of 42 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown. Why? Well, it was obvious.

"He got a lot of time to throw," Pinkel said.

Way more than Chase Daniel got. The holes were bigger than the ones former backs Tony Temple and Derrick Washington tried to fit through. These Tigers won, and they did it by imposing their will on two Sooner lines filled with piles of recruiting stars that couldn't do anything about it.

This was a win over a No. 1 team, and it was a win over one of the Big 12 bullies that have tormented the Tigers, beating Pinkel 11 consecutive times before tonight.

It was a win for the program, and those players from the recent past were there to celebrate. Former receiver Tommy Saunders smiled amidst the sea of students on the turf, looking for someone to hug. Former linebacker Brock Christopher found one of his old teammates, defensive lineman Bart Coslet, and welcomed him with a huge, congratulatory hug.

There's no ceiling for Mizzou anymore. It left Faurot Field with the students carrying the goalposts to Harpo's downtown, celebrating through the steady rain. Players like Saunders, Washington, Christopher, Daniel and Temple helped Missouri reach that ceiling.

A new generation of players like Gabbert, Aldon Smith, T.J. Moe, Jerrell Jackson and Henry Josey helped shatter it.

"We wanted to come out there and prove to everyone that this year," Barnes said, "it was going to be a little different."

[+] EnlargeKevin Rutland
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonKevin Rutland and the Missouri defense disrupted the Oklahoma offense -- forcing two interceptions and holding the Sooners to just 99 yards rushing.
Message received. The defense held the Sooners to just 99 yards rushing.

Missouri knew this would be different early. The first time a Tiger touched the ball, Gahn McGaffie raced into the end zone on an 86-yard kickoff return. The first run from scrimmage: 20 yards by De'Vion Moore, longer than any other carry by a tailback in any of those three games in which Missouri failed to take its next big step as a program.

"We have a lot more experience and guys are getting better," Barnes said. "We wanted it so bad. I know for the linemen, it's just a little different for us."

It's different for Mizzou as a whole now, too, and Gabbert left no doubt as to what "it" was.

"I give all the credit in the world to our offensive line. They did an extremely good job winning the battle in the trenches," he said, "and that's why we were successful tonight."

The defensive line played just as well, pressuring the Sooners and hurrying Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

The only thing the Missouri defense seemed to do wrong all night was fail to take an interception return into the end zone, a pick only created by Aldon Smith's pressure on Jones. Smith tipped the ball to himself and had to settle for a 58-yard return into Oklahoma territory, swinging the game's momentum and setting up a touchdown that put Missouri ahead 14-7 early.

"We'll talk about that later," Gabbert said of the return with a wide smile.

Pinkel couldn't help but crack a joke at the weaving return, too: "He's always talking about playing tight end," he said.

Smith's return to the field -- one he later said he had to make against the No. 1 Sooners -- from a broken fibula, helped spur a line that disrupted Oklahoma's passing attack, limiting them to just 60 yards passing in the second half after 248 in the first. None of Jones' final seven passes found their receivers; one found Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden deep in Oklahoma territory, which set up a field goal that put Missouri up 29-21.

"Our defensive line did really, really well, and that tempo of offense is very, very difficult," Pinkel said of the Sooners' high-speed attack. "When you win games like this, generally you go to the line of scrimmage and that tells the story."

It was a different ending this time for the Tigers, a story in Missouri's history that will be retold for decades. But after Saturday's celebration late into the night, they'll wake up on Sunday knowing that what happened on Faurot Field on Oct. 23, 2010, is exactly that: history. And that story's ending has yet to be written.

"We play Nebraska next week," Pinkel said. "This isn't the national championship."
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri's big 36-27 win should vault them inside or near the top 5, and gives them sole possession of first place in the North, and with this win against Nebraska's loss last week, the Tigers are the favorite to win the division and the Big 12.

How the game was won: Missouri pressured Landry Jones for the entire night, and kept the Sooners from ever getting in a rhythm offensively. On the other side, the Tigers protected Blaine Gabbert and ran the ball well the entire night, far out rushing the Sooners.

Turning point: Down 26-21, Oklahoma's Jones was picked off by a diving Zaviar Gooden to give Missouri the ball in the red zone with a big lead. It turned that into three points after a successful hook-and-ladder for a first down and added a touchdown on the next drive to take a 36-21 lead in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: Missouri's 178 rushing yards. Without those, the Tigers would have been one-dimensional as they were in past games against the Sooners and likely have faced a different fate.

Player of the game: Missouri's linemen. As noted above, pressure on Jones forced turnovers on defense. A dominant performance allowed a handful of guys to make plays on offense, like Jerrell Jackson, who caught eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Second guessing: A pair of two-point conversion decisions by both coaches. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops one-upped Gary Pinkel with an attempt when his team was down by nine points. The Sooners failed and didn't extend the game.

What Oklahoma learned: It still can't play on the road or in the fourth quarter. All five losses came away from home last year, and the same is true of the Sooners' loss this year.

What Missouri learned: Let's keep it simple. The Tigers are the best team in the Big 12.

video

Tigers going 'Boise' on the Sooners

October, 23, 2010
10/23/10
11:11
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- This has to look familiar to the Oklahoma faithful.

Missouri took a 29-21 lead early in the fourth quarter after executing a hook-and-ladder a la Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to set up a field goal that put them up eight.

Blaine Gabbert threw a pass to the flats to Michael Egnew, who pitched it to Kendial Lawrence. The crowd (and the cannon at Faurot Field) thought he'd run it in for a touchdown, but officials ruled him out of bounds.

If only Chris Petersen had called the play. It would have had to have worked, right?

The Tigers got the first down, but the offense stalled from there, and a failed two-point conversion on Missouri's previous touchdown, a 39-yard score by Jerrell Jackson, has kept the game a one-possession affair.

Zaviar Gooden intercepted Landry Jones' first pass after Missouri's first touchdown of the quarter to set up the second.

Halftime analysis: Mizzou 17, OU 14

October, 23, 2010
10/23/10
9:47
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COLUMBIA, Mo.--That first half was a lot of things, but entertaining is at the top of my list. Two great teams going at it here at Faurot Field, and this thing is definitely up for grabs.

Turning point: The opening kickoff. The energy in the stadium was already off the charts. Then Missouri's Gahn McGaffie housed it from 86 yards away and added some genuine belief in the building to the already buzzing energy.

Stat of the half: Oklahoma's two turnovers. Both occurred in the red zone.

Best player in the half: Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles. He's playing with an injured ankle, and he still looks like a contender for the Biletnikoff Award. He's caught six passes for 95 yards, including a 39-yarder that he narrowly snagged from a defensive back on the sideline.

Unsung hero: Missouri's offensive line. Blaine Gabbert has had all night to throw. Missouri's running backs have consistently had holes to run through, racking up 70 yards rushing. That's a new phenomenon for the Tigers against the Sooners, and a great sign for their chances to spring the upset.

Best call: Bob Stoops elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 in the red zone, with his team already coming up empty-handed there twice in the half. Fullback Trey Millard converted a dive play, and DeMarco Murray scored on a 5-yard reception two plays later to tie the game.

What Missouri needs to do: Keep protecting Blaine Gabbert. He's the team's best player with some functional talent around him. Give him time, and he'll make enough plays to win this with sure-handed guys like Michael Egnew and T.J. Moe running around in the secondary. Jerrell Jackson has played well, also.

What Oklahoma needs to do: Take advantage of opportunities. The easiest way to lose on the road is with turnovers. Do it in the red zone and you almost assure yourself a loss, especially to a quality team like the Tigers.

Big 12 predictions: Week 6

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
9:06
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

I'm making my way to Manhattan, Kan. today for tonight's game between the Wildcats and Huskers, but I'll be back in Dallas in time to see the Aggies and Hogs go at it in The House That Jerry (or some guys he paid) Built.

Last week was a rough one for the Big 12 Blog, with my missed picks equaling my total from the previous four weeks. You knew the breakdown had to come sometime.

I missed my upset pick of Texas A&M over Oklahoma State and whiffed on a couple of swing games in Ames and Boulder.

Here's how I stand:

Last week: 2-3 (.400)

Overall: 41-6 (.872)

Let's get to this week's picks:

THURSDAY

No. 7 Nebraska 31, Kansas State 21: This thing smells like another possible upset, and Kansas State should be able to move the ball pretty well with Daniel Thomas, but the Wildcats don't have the talent or speed in the front seven to slow Taylor Martinez's legs. Look for defensive backs Emmanuel Lamur, Troy Butler and Tysyn Hartman to make a lot of tackles, on Martinez and receivers Brandon Kinnie and Mike McNeill. That's not a good thing. Martinez wasn't rattled in the passing game in his first road start, and him throwing a couple of costly interceptions is the only thing that turns this in Kansas State's favor.

FRIDAY

No. 22 Oklahoma State 51, Louisiana-Lafayette 20: The Sun Belt has some good teams. The Ragin' Cajuns are not one of them. Georgia lost at Colorado on Saturday night, but beat these guys 55-7 in Athens for its only win of the season. Puntos, puntos, golly.

SATURDAY

Baylor 27, Texas Tech 24: This is definitely the toughest pick of the week. Comparing the depth charts, Texas Tech looks like the better team, but Baylor is getting it done and has all the momentum and confidence. Texas Tech looks lost on defense and inconsistent on offense. In 2008, the Bears almost took down the best Tech team in recent history, losing 35-28 after taking a lead into the fourth quarter. They almost did it again in 2009 in Cowboys Stadium. With Robert Griffin back, they get it done this time. Enjoy the corny dogs, Bears.

No. 11 Arkansas 38, Texas A&M 28: Come back later today for a video of me explaining my pick of the week.

No. 24 Missouri 41, Colorado 17: Colorado says it's sick of getting blown out by the Tigers. They'll still be sick on Saturday night after hitting the road for the first time since a 52-7 loss at Cal. All of the Buffaloes' wins have come over mediocre teams. Missouri's running backs have carried the load so far this year, but Blaine Gabbert has his first big game, staying away from big-time corners Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown in favor of more bubble screens to the flats and underneath routes to T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew. The Buffaloes can stop Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson. Good luck with the rest of the Tigers' offense.

No. 10 Utah 24, Iowa State 21: I really do think Iowa State has a great chance to upset the Utes. I just don't have the guts to pick it. Iowa State's offense is better, but it's not "hang 52 points every week" better. Two of the Cyclones' touchdown drives were less than 40 yards, and another score came on an onside kick return. One other scoring drive was a one-play, 61-yard run by Shontrelle Johnson. Can't count on those every week.

Idle: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas.

Game's back on in Manhattan

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
2:24
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Kansas State and UCF are finally back playing again after a delay of over an hour.

Meanwhile, Missouri's off to a nice start in avoiding last week's close call against this week's non-BCS opponent. The Tigers' Andrew Gachkar forced a fumble on the opening kick and cornerback Carl Gettis returned the ball for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 7-0 eight seconds into the game.

Missouri is also playing without three starters. Receiver Jerrell Jackson is out with a hip injury, defensive end Aldon Smith is shelved after breaking his fibula and safety Jasper Simmons is still out after suffering a torn meniscus against Illinois. Jackson was already playing with a broken bone in his wrist, catching balls with a cast.

Missouri stumbles at start

September, 4, 2010
9/04/10
1:27
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Missouri hasn't started its season like it had envisioned, trailing Illinois, 3-0, at the end of the first quarter.

The Tigers went three-and-out on their first possession before punting it away to Illinois and its redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

The Fighting Illini marched 64 yards in 17 plays on a drive that lasted over nine minutes, but the Tigers stopped the drive inside the 10 to hold Illinois to a 21-yard field goal.

The Tigers looked like they had shed the early offensive troubles, moving the ball with 14 and 19-yard completions to receivers Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp.

Gabbert fumbled on a quarterback keeper two plays later, but Missouri forced a fumble from Scheelhaase to regain possession.

A Missouri running back didn't carry the ball until the quarter's final play, when Kendial Lawrence rushed for two yards.

T.J. Moe has already equaled his reception total from 2009, with a pair of receptions totaling 15 yards.

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