On Saturday in College Station, the now #18/#11 Missouri Tigers (6-0,2-0) defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (3-3, 0-2) by the final score of 30-9. To anyone who watched this game, there was no doubt about which was the better team. In addition, it was abundantly clear that Missouri's Blaine Gabbert is the better of the two QBs.
Coming off of an injury that forced him to the sideline in the fourth quarter against Colorado, Gabbert answered a good many questions with his play against the Aggies. His passing statistics, 31-47-0, for 361 yards and 3 TDs, support the assertion that this was Gabbert's best game of the year. It was unquestionably his most productive. Anyone watching could easily see that Gabbert is far superior to A&M's Jerrod Johnson, who had been selected as the conference's top QB in the pre-season. After the game on Saturday, Gabbert talked about his day.
"I felt good (on Saturday)," began Gabbert. "I worked hard all week to get my body back to what it should be. As a team we executed very well today. I worked hard with the training staff and they got me back to where I need to be. It's mind over matter. When you're focused on a specific goal, nothing else matters. We were focused on the 'W' at the end, and we got that. As a team, this is the best we've played. Overall, we executed very well."
Against A&M, the Missouri offense was well-balanced, and as the Missouri QB stated, they executed well. Gabbert spread the ball around to his receivers, and at times, the Tigers ran the ball well. Wes Kemp enjoyed a career day as a receiver, with 10 catches for 89 yards and 2 TDs. Michael Egnew also had 10 receptions, for 87 yards. T.J. Moe garnered 6 receptions for 110 yards and 1 TD, and Jerrell Jackson had 4 catches for 55 yards.
"Wes is really doing well," Coach Pinkel said, talking about Kemp. "He had a little lapse at the beginning of the season. It's nice to see him start practicing better, doing better. It's nice to see a guy have some adversity like that, and come back and really do a real good job of kind of getting his game back..................... He's a great team player."
"If you can spread it out a little bit, I think it makes you much stronger," surmised Coach Pinkel, regarding the balance in the passing game.
It was really nice to see Gabbert and the Tigers clicking on offense. In the first half, the Tigers started slowly on offense, then put together three workman-like, first half scoring drives. In the second half, Missouri scored quickly, almost easily, each of the first two times the Tigers had the ball, the second of which put the game away, at 30-3, near the end of the third quarter.
Credit Coach Yost with the game plan, and the play calling. I like the way that Coach Yost utilized Kemp, and got him involved in the passing game. Kemp is big and fast, and very good after the catch. Yost used Kemp as a runner on the outside, as well as running routes where he can look at the ball with both eyes. There was the one deep pass thrown over the shoulder, with Kemp's back to the QB, but even that was effective, in that it made the Aggie defenders think about the deep ball. Kudos to Kemp, as well, for working to fix his earlier problems with catching the football. I'm glad to see him doing well. Like Coach Pinkel said, Kemp's "a great kid". Integrating production from Kemp and Jackson, as well as from Lawrence and Josey, into the offense, along with Moe and Egnew, provides Blaine Gabbert and the Tigers with formidable weaponry.
"I think we're getting better, said Coach Pinkel, talking about his team. "I think that's as important as anything. We're really improving. We're a lot better football team than we were three weeks ago."
I agree with Coach Pinkel's assessment. Not only is Missouri getting better, as several young players are demonstrating improved play each week, and the team is coming together as a whole. But, continual improvement is an encouraging and exciting quality for a 6-0 team.
"They're playing so well as a unit together," said Coach Pinkel. "We just want to keep getting better."
Coach Pinkel was referring to his defense, currently ranked #2 nationally in scoring defense, but those statements could be applied to all three phases, and to the team, in general.
Midway through the season, after allowing only one opponent to cross the goal line more than once in a game (San Diego State, 29th nationally in scoring offense at 33.5 points/game), Missouri's tenacious defense has erased all doubt of any illusions. This defense is for real, and as Coach Pinkel indicated, like the rest of the team, they're getting better.