On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers scrimmaged for the first time this fall, and the defense came out on top in Missouri’s scrimmage scoring system by the score of 14-10.
Plays were made on both sides of the football, including a highlight-reel, leaping interception by E.J. Gaines, and a beautiful 75-yard throw and catch from James Franklin to Marcus Lucas for a score.
“Overall, I thought it was a good day,” said Coach Pinkel, following Missouri’s first scrimmage of fall camp. “I thought a lot of good things happened. There’s always things on both sides of the ball where you’re beating yourself. Whether it’s mental errors, or penalties, or dropped balls, things like that. All of those things need to get cleaned up pretty good. Certainly, each individual’s got to make sure he looks at the film, studies it, and finds out the things that he can do to make himself better, and get back to work Monday morning. Overall, I think there was a lot of good stuff.”
Lots of good stuff, for sure. But the best news of the day was that the Tigers came through the scrimmage with nary a scratch. Saturday’s scrimmage also revealed that offensively, things are a little different this year. The running game was a big part of Missouri’s offense on Saturday, with 7 TBs combining to rush 46 times for an average of more than 5 yards/carry. And, the passing game included a good many deeper passes, including the TD pass from Franklin to Lucas, that was lofted deep down the sideline and that hit the senior receiver right in the hands, and right in stride.
“There’s a lot of new things we’re doing in our offensive scheme,” continued Coach Pinkel. “There’s a lot of good stuff, but we just don’t have the timing down. We had a lot of dropped balls, we missed a couple of throws. That’s Missouri beating Missouri. But those things can be fixed. And, it’s real important that we do that. One thing, we came out very, very healthy. (Sheldon) Gerau sprained his ankle. Other than that, we had nothing. So, that’s awesome!”
Second-string QB Maty Mauk came up with a big pass play, as well, a 65-yard scoring passing to Jaleel Clark. It was a nice play by Mauk, who kept the play alive on third-and-long to find Clark alone down the left sideline for what would have been a first down. But, as safety Braylon Webb came up to knock Clark out of bounds, Clark spun off of the tackle and raced another 40 yards or so into the end zone. Mauk finished the day 11-22-1 for 211 yards and 1 TD
At the end of the day, Franklin simply continued to strengthen his position as the starting QB, as he has been doing this entire off-season. He finished the day 11-19-1 for 174 yards and 2 TDs.
The one QB who helped himself the most on Saturday was freshman Eddie Printz, who worked the short passing game effectively, and finished the day 15-16-0 for 97 yards.
On a day that was won by the defense, the first-team defense registered three takeaways total. In addition to the interception by Gaines, Donovan Bonner forced a fumble and Kentrell Brothers came up with an interception of his own. On the day, the defense registered 6 sacks, forced and recovered 5 fumbles, and snagged 3 interceptions.
Afterwards, Coach Pinkel talked about the leaping interception by Gaines.
“That was a great play,” explained Coach Pinkel. “He went up and got it. If you’re coaching receivers, you have got to become a defender and knock that ball down. You’re not the receiver anymore. All of a sudden, it’s switched. Dorial, a young receiver, he has to go and bat that (ball) down. But, it’s a great play by E.J., if you’re coaching E.J.. But if you’re coaching Dorial, you have to help the QB (Franklin) and get it down. If the ball was thrown three or four yards wider, it would’ve been a touchdown. So the placement of the ball wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Kony Ealy, who forced a fumble and was credited with a pass break up when he batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage, later said that the competition between Missouri’s offense and defense is at a high level, and that both units are playing at a high level.
Franklin said that he thought that this was Missouri’s best first scrimmage of fall camp since he’s been here. With all the shuffling of players and player combinations for the purpose of evaluating personnel, the timing and the continuity weren’t what everyone will want it to be in three weeks.
After Saturday’s first scrimmage, it’s safe to identify the starting specialists for each of Missouri’s special teams. Christian Brinser averaged 43.8 yards/punt on 4 punts and dropped 3 of those inside the 20-yard line. With Jake Hurrell doing the long-snapping, and with Braylon Webb doing the holding, Andrew Baggett was 4-5 on field goal attempts and he boomed his kick-offs out of the end zone.
Marcus Murphy worked as the primary punt and kick-off return man, while Gaines is his back-up on punt return and Russell Hansbrough is the number two kick-off return man. Murphy was recently named to a couple of pre-season All-American teams as a returner, and Gaines and Hansbrough are very capable return men, as well.
Freshman corner Aarion Penton also looked good as a punt returner. Penton had one of the better days among the freshmen, as he saw a lot of action on the outside at corner in Missouri’s number two dime package. He showed well in his first scrimmage, and he may have catapulted himself into consideration for a promotion.
Penton wasn’t the only freshman getting second-team reps. Josh Augusta came in right away to fortify the middle of the Tigers number two defense, and he showed well, stuffing the inside run. TE Jason Reese had a good day, and I think he helped himself. He looked very good catching the football, and he showed very good speed and run-after-catch ability.
Several other true freshmen had strong first scrimmages, including Charles Harris, who was credited with a forced fumble when he burst through to knock down a lateral pitch in the backfield. J’Mon Moore showed excellent hands, and athletic ability, and demonstrated very good run-after-catch ability.
Closer to the top of the Depth Chart, I thought that Ian Simon and Cortland Browning each helped themselves with their play on Saturday. With Matt White sidelined with a groin injury, Simon lined up next to Webb and performed well. Brothers had a good day, as he and Andrew Wilson manned the two LB positions when Missouri went with an extra defensive back.
Donavin Newsom continued to stand out, as he has all week, and he had a productive scrimmage, with a pass-break-up and a TFL that resulted in a safety. Harold Brantley stood out on the day with his play, as well.
Tyler Hunt came in and ran hard in short-yardage situations. He finished the day with 46 yards on 7 carries, almost all of them in short-yardage situations. He ran hard and was tough to bring down. It looks like Hunt might be the Tigers’ short-yardage back.
To begin things, James Franklin brought the first-team offense out from their own end. Three straight hand-offs netted a first down. Later, taking over on the Missouri 25-yard line, Franklin lofted a beautiful pass down the left sideline to Lucas for a score. Lucas had gotten behind David Johnson, and Franklin hit the senior receiver right in stride and laid the ball right on his hands.
A little later, Franklin engineered another 75-yard scoring drive that featured pass completions for first downs to Dorial Green-Beckham (25 yards), Bud Sasser (20 yards), and Henry Josey (10 yards), and that culminated with a nice pitch play to Hansbrough for the score. On that touchdown run, Franklin quickly read the defense on the option, and pitched it to the sophomore TB, who took it across at the right front pylon.
Later in the scrimmage, Franklin found Sasser at the goal line for a score.
Mauk came out from his own end and immediately hit Randy Ponder right in the hands out along the left sideline, but Ponder is a defensive back, and he failed to complete what should have been an easy interception for a walk-in TD. Tyler Hunt took a hand-off and started over right tackle, then he worked his way back across to the left hash for the first down.
Later, Mauk dropped back to pass. He started to abandon the pocket, but he fumbled the football, where it was picked up in the backfield by Brantley.
Mauk brought the number two offense out from the 35-yard line. He found Clark across mid-field down the left sideline. Webb missed the tackle and Clark ran untouched into the end zone.
A little later, Mauk brought them out again from the 35-yard line. He picked up 2 yards on a scramble. Eric Waters peeled back and decleated Matt Hoch who was chasing Mauk out of the pocket. Hoch got up and made his way to the sideline where the training staff turned his helmet back around to face forward. Later in the scrimmage, Mauk hit Webb right in the hands for what should have been his third interception of the day. But, the junior safety allowed the ball to hit the turf, then he hit the turf with his hands in frustration.
Mauk was having some ball-security issues, exacerbated by some not very accurate center snaps. Murphy ran up inside for a big gain. Mauk found Green-Beckham down along the left side for another first down.
Corbin Berkstresser came in with the number three offense, and failed to move the football. On third and long from the 1-yard line, Morgan Steward took a hand-off and started right, but Donavin Newsom brought him down before he could get out of the end zone.
Later, Berkstresser quickly found Moore out along the right side. The talented freshmen turned that short pass into a first down. Berkstresser hit Clayton Echard for a first down. Echard was sitting down over the middle, and Berkstresser hit him right in the numbers.
A little later, Berkstresser hit Moore again, this time for a short pass out along the left side. Again, Moore displayed his run-after-catch ability, and turned it up for a first down. Marcus Loud got in Berkstresser’s face and forced him to unload it out of bounds.
Later, Berkstresser got the ball to Jason Reese out along the left side. Reese displayed speed and quickness after the catch and moved the chains. Tyler Hunt was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but he muscled his way free to pick up another first down. Hunt took another inside hand-off and picked up 3 yards.
Coach Pinkel shares his thoughts on the first pre-season scrimmage of 2013.