Sunday, September 16, 2007

Thoughts on Yesterday...


Lots of people have said this already, but it’s clear that Chase Daniel had a poor game yesterday...and he went for 328 yards passing and 60 yards rushing. His two INT’s were both horrible ideas, and I was actually somewhat glad they happeend. Chase was getting a little too cute and overconfident in floating some passes in, and it was best that he got a reminder of what not to do now than later. Oh, and that hum you heard near 4pm yesterday was the roughly 40,000 remaining Mizzou fans breathing a huge “We’d still be a decent team if—God forbid—something happened to Chase Daniel” sigh of relief when Chase Patton came in and marched the backups right down the field...actually throwing a TD pass (poor Blake May will never get that opportunity back) and running for a TD in the same drive.


I was really happy that Derrick Washington got back into the game after he panicked on his first collegiate carry. He made a couple nice runs after that, and it’s pretty clear that the staff realizes he has more potential than any of Tony Temple’s backups, especially since Marcus Woods’ high ankle sprain is going to prevent him from making much of a lengthy contribution this season. Temple is starting to get the Illinois game out of his system and is running pretty confident again.


It’s safe to say that enough words have already been typed regarding Jeremy Maclin and the job he’s done so far. The only thing I’ll add about him is that he takes really little steps in traffic, a style that reminds me a lot of Brad Smith. His footwork in traffic is even more impressive when you remember that he blew out his ACL about 14 months ago. He’s an unbelievable weapon, and I really look forward to watching him for the next couple years. Assuming Maclin’s back for his junior season, and assuming Danario Alexander is back for his senior season, it’s good to know that the breaking-in process for the new 2009 starting QB will be made at least a little more comfortable with the weapons he’ll have at his disposal.

But it’s probably a wee bit early to start thinking about 2009, eh?


This is working out perfectly. Martin Rucker’s on pace to catch 100+ passes, and Chase Coffman’s numbers—while still impressive—are making it likely that he’ll come back for his senior season. You just can’t say enough about Rucker and the toughness he’s bringing to this finesse offense. He’s trying to hard to set an example for the entire team, and he’s succeeding big-time. I haven’t seen a ton of college games yet this season, but with the way Rucker has played, I’m relatively confident in saying it will be an injustice if anybody else wins First-Team All-American. I’ve never seen a TE play better than he’s playing right now.

But that’s enough raving...for now.


There were decent holes for the RB’s, and like Tony Temple, the OL’s begun to get the wretched Illinois game out of its system, but Chase Daniel didn’t appear as comfortable in the pocket as he did last week against Ole Miss. Daniel will blame himself for that, but still...there’s obvious room for improvement there...a funny thing to say about a line that cleared the way for 619 yards of total offense.


I will say that the D-Line made more plays than it did in the first two games. However, a) WMU is a lesser team than Illinois or Ole Miss, and b) the WMU O-line was still able to seal off the ends on trap-type runs. It didn’t really hurt Mizzou a ton because WMU’s RB’s aren’t very good. However, giving a good RB the outside lane untouched is a scary proposition. As I’ve said before, Marlon Lucky is not an RB who can create a lot on his own, but he’s great at taking what a defense gives him. If we give him the outside lane that easily, he’ll run for 200 yards.

One other thing to mention is that we’ve played things so vanilla so far this season once again that the D-line has been put at a disadvantage. Once we start blitzing the LB’s and things like that (assuming we start doing that at some point), things might get a little easier for the D-Linemen. We’ve got a relatively athletic front four, and I’m thinking they could be strong in zone blitz situations with guys like Sulak and Ziggy Hood dropping back in coverage.


Sean Weatherspoon flies around the field and hits really hard, but Brock Christopher is the defense’s rock. He once again led the team in tackles, and he jumped on a third-down route and made a really athletic interception in the first quarter. A lot’s been said about the LB corps’ lack of depth, and every word has been true. I’m hoping that Luke Lambert steps up as the year progresses...could help with that.

The main problem with the LB’s right now—Van Alexander in particular—is there are just too damn many arm tackles. I’m not going to single Van out—it’s been a defense-wide problem—but you can have all the athleticism in the world, and it won’t matter if you can’t make tackles when you get to the ball-carrier.


I keep reminding myself that Hardy Ricks and Darnell Terrell were both injured in August and are still catching up on their reps...and therefore their coverage will get better as the season moves along. That said, I realize that a lot of WMU’s passing success came simply from the fact that Bill Cubit is a pretty smart guy and used a lot of super-quick passes to WR’s for 4-7 yard gains...and that, combined with the improving but still limited pass rush, is how they managed to complete 70% of their passes (30-for-43). Actually, I saw some of the quick hit plays last night when NU played USC last night. The good news is, we’ll have seen the plays before and will be more familiar with them. The bad news is, of course, that if they worked for WMU...well...


I’m not ready to panic on Jeff Wolfert’s place-kicking yet, but I’m getting closer each week. As for his looked like we were consciously trying to avoid their relatively dangerous return man and attempting what a lot of teams have been in kicking high to an up man and hoping for a fair catch. The only problem with that was, either the kicks weren’t shallow enough and allowed the main return man to catch the ball on the run at the 20, or the kicks weren’t high enough and allowed the up man to catch the ball and run a ways. In other words, kickoffs and coverage were horrid.

The rest of the special teams were fine. I obviously love Maclin’s returns, and every punt seems to be from the opponent’s 40, so I’m not too concerned with Adam Crossett’s punting average so far...and Crossett scored some bonus points for hitting the Mizzou guy in stride at the 5 in the third quarter.


Assuming the defensive gameplan really has been intentionally vanilla, and assuming that the staff really has been playing it close to the vest, then kudos. I’ll give a lot of the defense’s struggles a pass with the “As long as it’s fixed for Nebraska” disclaimer. Offensively...well...we had a mini-funk in the third quarter, but that wasn’t the coaches’ fault. Greg Bracey dropped a sure TD pass, and if he catches that, then the game ends without the fans feeling that familiar “here we go again...another letdown” feeling.


In the end, we gave up our first offensive touchdown over halfway through the third quarter, and we racked up 619 yards of offense. Yes, the score got a hair too close in our weekly second half letdown, but as soon as it got to 38-24, everybody snapped out of it and dominated down the stretch. I'll take that.