For Missouri, this was their second shutout of the season, and positioned the Tigers, heading into the season's final week, as the Big 12's number one (7th NCAA) scoring defense (15.91 points/game). Missouri's SOS took a hit, and will again this week. The Tigers' schedule is currently ranked as the 7th strongest in the country, but will likely drop just out of the top 10, by season's end.
The win also established, for the third straight season, Missouri's senior class as the winningest in the history of Missouri football. The 39 wins over the past four seasons is a school record, and with 9 wins in the book, the opportunity for a 10-win season for the third time in the last four years is presented. Missouri has now won 54 games over the past 6 years, encompassing the careers of the last three senior classes. That's an average of 9 wins/season, from 2005-2010, and a winning percentage during that 6-year span of 70%. A 10th win this season would give Missouri an average of 10 wins/season over the past four years.
The night belonged to the defense, and to the special teams, while offensively, Missouri sputtered and lurched their way to two scores, which was more than enough on this cold, windy night on the plains. There were numerous defensive stars, including Jacquies Smith and Brad Madison, and Kenji Jackson, Zaviar Gooden, and Andrew Gachkar. Coach Pinkel talked about his defense.
"Obviously, a shutout is awesome! And then, we did enough things on offense to score, and we also protected the football," summarized Coach Pinkel. "We've got great chemistry (on defense). Obviously, we've got a lot of good athletes, and the coaches are doing a great job.................... If we're high energy, and we're playing with great intensity, we're a pretty good defense, and that's fun to watch."
With 5:08 remaining in the first quarter, Missouri took over for just their second possession of the game, at their own 20-yard line, following a missed field goal attempt by Iowa State. An eight-play drive that included a pair of long pass completions by Blaine Gabbert, the first a 26 yarder to Rolandis Woodland, and the second a 24-yard reception by Michael Egnew, culminated in an 11-yard TD pass from Gabbert to Egnew in the back right corner of the end zone. Egnew, the Mackey Award semi-finalist, who finished the night with 7 receptions for 77 yards, now has 78 receptions on the season, for 663 yards (8.5 yards/receptions), and 4 TDs.
Missouri's fourth possession of the game began with 11:22 remaining in the second quarter, at Missouri's 16-yard line, after Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp had punted the ball out of bounds. The Tigers converted two 3rd downs, and moved the ball to the Iowa State 22-yard line, with a 13-play drive, before Elvis Fisher's late hit drew a flag that pushed the Tigers out of field goal range. Coach Pinkel was not happy with that development.
"We had the ball on the 22-yard line, and we are in field goal range, especially with Grant (Ressel)," explained Coach Pinkel. "So, we get a personal foul, and it backs us up, and makes it 3rd and long. So, we have to punt! Obviously, I'm dissapointed in that!"
That wasn't Fisher's only miscue in this game, as the three-year starter had a rough night. But, I'll be surprised if Fisher doesn't quickly turn it around, and play a great game this week.
Missouri got back on the score board with a drive that began on their own 20-yard line, following another missed ISU field goal attempt, with 5:42 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Facing 4th and 2, on their own 28-yard line, Missouri lined up to punt the football away. But instead of punting, Matt Grabner ran for the first down to keep the Missouri drive alive. With 14:09 remaining in the 4th quarter, De'Vion Moore took it in from the 1-yard line, capping off a 13 play drive that put Missouri in solid conrol of the game. Coach Pinkel talked about the decision to go with the fake on his own end of the field, saying that he had never done that before.
"I got on the phone, and talked to the other coaches," said Coach Pinkel. "And (everybody said) let's go for it! Let's go for it! And, Stec agreed, and Coach Yost. And so, it worked!"
Saying "it worked" is Coach Pinkel's way of sarcastically saying that it was a good call because it worked. But, the staff had seen something in Iowa State's alignment, and Coach Hill had designed and installed the play. They knew it would work, or Coach Pinkel never would have risked it from his own 28-yard line.
On offense, the Tigers were committed to running the football, and although they experienced only intermittent success on the ground, they stuck with their running game. Including a few scrambles, Missouri rushed the football 41 times, for 134 yards (3.3 yards/carry) and 1 TD. For the second straight week, Blaine Gabbert led the Tigers in rushing. Had Missouri ever managed to block Iowa State LB Jake Knott, they might have run for 300 yards! I never saw Knott get blocked all night. On several plays, he was in the hole before the Missouri TB had the ball! I don't know if he's that smart, and that good, or if he's just using some old Jehdi mind trick. Maybe that's why he leads the lead in tackles? But, Missouri remained committed to the run, and at game's end, it had proven successful.
Iowa State's defense looked much better than their defensive rankings, and their record, both of which would have suggested a better offensive outing by the Tigers. Certainly, errors were made in Missouri's offensive execution. From missed blocks and a bad snap, to penalties and the failure to "play catch", all contributed to missed scoring opportunities for Missouri. But, the Tigers won the turnover battle, and relied on their defense and special teams to make 14 points stand up. Coach Pinkel acknowledged that the offense needs to execute better, and that they need to work on some things. But like Coach Pinkel, I'm inclined to be pleased with the win, for a moment.
It was Missouri's 9th win of the season, and a road win against a dangerous opponent, one who had recently won in Austin, and who had been a play away from an overtime win at Nebraska. So, everyone can exhale, and turn their attention to Kansas. Who knows? Maybe the Buffaloes will give Missouri an early Christmas present?