Missouri-Texas A&M report card

For the offense, it was the same story all day. For Missouri's defense, it was a tale of two quarterbacks. In the end, though, the Tigers got their seventh win and Inside Mizzou breaks it down in this week's report card.

Quarterbacks: A-

Smith's passing wasn't brilliant, but his running sure was. Smith ran all over the Aggie defense, going for 149 yards and two touchdowns. In the process, he went over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, something no one has done in school history. As for the passing, J.D. McCoy made him look good with some great catches. Then again, the Tigers only passed 20 times after building an early lead.

Running backs: A

Zack Abron looked more like Smith out there when he got some room. It seemed no matter what play Missouri ran, its running backs got some room, and they took advantage of that room. Abron's early touchdown gave him the Missouri all-time scoring and touchdowns records, and he is oh-so close to Brock Olivo's all-time rushing record. Damien Nash looked very impressive, going for 8.1 yards a carry and an electric touchdown run, though he did reach the ball out for it, a Gary Pinkel faux pas.

Wide receivers: B

Smith rarely had much open downfield, which explains the low passing total and all of the short passes to McCoy. Darius Outlaw had a good 22-yard catch, the only pass that went for more than 15 yards. But the downfield blocking was good on a day when Missouri did little more than run, run and run again. As Outlaw said, why would they stop it when it was going so well?

Offensive line: A+

When this unit gets going, good luck stopping the Tigers' rushing game. Missouri racked up 362 rushing yards in the game, and most of it's because of these guys. There were holes all over the place. At least six or seven times, Smith had two holes to choose from, it was that easy. This is the kind of game Missouri expected such an experienced offensive line to have all season.

Defensive line: B

It's almost as if the defense should get two grades: one for when Reggie McNeal was in the game and one for when Dustin Long replaced him. Against McNeal, the defensive line had great pressure, and McNeal didn't have a run for more than 15 yards, and Missouri sacked him twice. Against Long, though, the same pressure wasn't there. It gave A&M's Terrence Murphy enough time to get deep into the secondary for Long to find him. And though it might be instinct, the late hit penalty when Long hit the turf could be a costly one in a closer game. That's just using your head. C.J. Mosley had a great game with two sacks and three tackles for loss.

Linebackers: B

Against McNeal, James Kinney and Brandon Barnes were so important in keeping contain. They finished with a combined 17.5 tackles as the Tigers' top two leading tacklers. Against Long, they couldn't help enough on the rush or in coverage.

Secondary: C+

The reason A&M struggled in the beginning was obvious: McNeal wasn't a good enough thrower to get his talented receivers the ball. When the Aggies replaced McNeal with Long, this became even more obvious. The Tigers tried single coverage on Murphy, and he burned them in the second half with 139 yards on seven catches. The coverage was still baby soft, and Long picked it apart.

Special teams: B

Recap: Returning good, kicking OK, punting could be better. Shirdonya Mitchell looks like he is so close to breaking one for a touchdown, and he had a good day Saturday with five kick returns for 127 yards. Marcus James had a good 17-yard punt return. Mike Matheny did his job, making a 44-yard field goal, a career long, and he didn't put any kickoffs out of bounds. Brock Harvey had two punts inside the 20, but they were at the 12 and 16. I'm sure Pinkel would like to see those go inside the 10 or 5 when the Tigers are punting from the 40.

Coaching: B+

Pinkel had a pretty simple game plan, and it worked. He ran the ball again and again, and the Aggies had no response. However, there were several lapses out on the field Saturday, several chances for Missouri to break the game open. It never really happened. Instead, Missouri let A&M stay in it, and Pinkel took the blame for that. However, Pinkel has surpassed many people's expectations this season by having the Tigers in the division hunt and getting seven wins so quickly. Saturday's game was another step in the right direction.


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