Zoukeeping:Texas Tech

Overachieving Tigers Defense Purring

The Missouri Tigers defense was fond of saying that they were a ‘bend, don’t break’ unit. Right now, the Tigers’ defense is breaking, but breaking instead the common stigma of the Big XII pundits and prognosticators, myself included.

The Tigers defense came back to Columbia after being shredded by a potent Oklahoma offense, only to be faced by the most potent offense in the nation, Texas Tech.

The boys from Lubbock came into the game averaging 50 points per game and over 500 yards passing per from quarterback Graham Harrell, both of these numbers put Tech atop the stat sheet in those categories. But the most dangerous and dangerous offense was held to ten points total, and were shut out in a second half that included a Texas Tech 4th and 44 on their own 12 yard line.

How did the Tigers achieve such an improbable defensive performance? Over aggressive defense. You saw this extreme blitzing and single coverage backfire on Tech’s one touchdown, a 68 yard beauty, that took the air out of the crowd and hinted that the shootout that everyone expected was on the way in the second half. But the pressure got to the nation’s most prolific passer and forced him into bad throws, four of which changed possession. Harrell’s four picks in the game totaled one more than his 2007 total to that date (3). Pig Brown had one of those picks, which he immediately fumbled back to Tech, but atoned for his sins with 14 tackles, leading the team.

Farout Rout
(Fa-Row/ Row)

The Tigers have given up just one touchdown in the last two games at Farout Field. This is propounded by the fact that both teams have vaunted offenses, and were both ranked at the time of the game. And one thing stands out in the defensive performances at home, as compared to the road...the defensive performances. The newfound excitement surrounding Mizzou has brought out big crowds for Gold Rush and Homecoming, and the defense is using the crowd to their advantage, just as Oklahoma used their 80,000 fans to invigorate their D and confuse the Mizzou offense. With big games left against Texas A&M and Iowa State, the recent performances have to make you wonder if Mizzou hasn’t finally developed a home field advantage worth fearing.

JJ Best Fit For Team

Jimmy Jackson filled in for the injured Tony Temple the past two games, and has played fantastically, scoring three times, and combining with Derrick ‘Denzel’ Washington, Earl Goldsmith, and Marcus ‘if a ball falls in the’ Woods for 212 yards. Jackson has averaged 4.8 yards per carry and in the spread offense, a runner that is not immune to contact will pay dividends. Jackson is that kind of back, even with Temple back, it would be foolish for Pinkel not to give Jackson the ball for the majority of the carries. Jackson bruises linebackers with punishing carries and still has the breakaway speed. With the return of Temple, the Tigers will have one of the deepest running back cores in the nation, all built from the same mold. But Jimmy Jackson has earned more touches and many, if not all of Mizzou’s third down and redzone carries. (Mind you, with Mizzou, those are few and far between.)

Tigers Bringing in Home Cubs
Blaine Gabbert is no longer a Nebraska verbal commit. The five star Senior quarterback from Parkway West in West County is now on the fence, and was in attendance to the the Blowout in Columbia vs. Tech. After the embarrassment Mizzou put on Nebraska, a whoppin’ that lost valued recruits, led to the firing of an AD and all but packed up the moving van for the head coach for the Huskers, one must sense that the tide is turning in the Big XII North. WIth the weak years by the South division, it also begs to ask, has the North finally switched roles and become the feet that stomp the doormat? One thing is certain, Mizzou’s great play is keeping recruits in state and is opening eyes across the nation. A team soiled in anonymity is now on the cusp of being a national title contender, and that can do nothing but bode well for the Tigers. and while Gabbert is not a must have player, grabbing him would prove to not just the Big XII, but the nation, that Mizzou is not just a one year Cinderella and is planing on success for years to come.

One, The Other, Or Your Job Gary

“He’s Going for Two?”

The clamoring went though the entire Edward Jones Dome as Gary Pinkel sent out quarterback Chase Daniel to follow up Pig Browns’ 100 yard fumble recovery touchdown. From the shotgun, with Daniel standing on the 5 yard line, he handed the ball, literally, to Tony Temple, who shimmied twice, but stood no chance against two linebackers clad in Orange who were blitzing. Conversion failed, Mizzou 13 Illinois 6.

It was this play in a span of 16 unanswered Mizzou points that has put Gary Pinkel on the hot seat this week. It was this 2 point conversation that forced Pinkel to publicly apologize. To be honest, I don’t really care much about that play. I wish I did, and it was the biggest issue I had with the head coach this week, but after the embarrassment of the Sun Bowl, and 8 whole months for it to saturate in, I have a much bigger issue with Gary Pinkel than his conversion chart: his game-plan.

I have never seen a team play entirely from the shotgun. Every single snap, save, taking a knee, is done with the quarterback two yards behind the center. It is unique, and I love unique. It is exciting, and who doesn’t love exciting. The best part is, it is successful. When done right.

But Pinkel doesn’t know when to quit with this aggressive set. Obviously, as evidenced in the Sun Bowl and the Arch Rivalry and greatly apparent in the Ole Miss game, this offense can score quickly and put the game out of reach early. But as the game continues, and Mizzou takes a big lead into the second half, the game-plan changes along with it. Pinkel has the right idea in running the ball to control the ball and run the clock. It is a time tested strategy that is prudent and conservative. The issue is, nothing that Gary Pinkel does is conservative. When Mizzou is up late, he tries to run a conservative game-plan from the same aggressive set that scored at will earlier in the game. This is the issue I have with Gary Pinkel.

He has admitted that the blame for the performances falls on him, and that is the understatement of the century. He calls the plays, he makes the game-plan. So it comes down to him to fix it. And surprisingly, it is rather simple. You have two choices, and both are obvious. First, when going into clock run mode, bring in some tight ends, add some blockers, solidify the line, and if you dare, put Daniel under center. It sounds crazy, but it’s crazy to run Tony Temple on a stretch play with no one besides your offensive line to block the overload of defenders pouring into the backfield. This idea, though it sounds crazy, is what every single team in the nation runs, and the idea works pretty well...

The second choice, and the choice that I think can be done easily, is never stop being aggressive. Let me explain. In a spread offense such as Mizzou’s, where they spread 5 wide on passing downs, and 4 wide on running downs, it is nearly impossible to block effectively and constantly. With this said, it would be foolish to try to run the ball, no matter what the situation, and with a accurate and poised quarterback like Daniel, it is really foolhearty to run the ball, even in the most conservative situations.
Coach Pinkel has gone to plan B more and more, and the success has been there, but will Pinkel stick with this game-plan? The game against Nebraska was a blowout, and the defense played out of this world. The Oklahoma loss has the Tigers playing from behind. The Texas Tech game will be a great litmus test. Mizzou has every opportunity to score a lot of points early, and if Tech’s attack starts out weak, and Mizzou has a big lead, will Pinkel recognize the fact that the Raiders can put up a lot of points quickly and continue to score, or will he go back to the same ol’ Gary Pinkel that changes face and gives a dangerous team every opportunity to step right back in the game. As the saying goes; only time will tell.