MIZZOU 7, BALL STATE 6
The first half of play was very indicative of a team I saw almost one year to the date on Faurot Field. Our opponent that night was Bowling Green. The two big differences between these teams was that this team made half-time adjustments, and this team won.
When I first saw Ball State's offensive line I thought, uh-oh, how did they get Bowling Green's lineman from 2001 all to transfer to the Cardinals? Knowing the reputation of Marcus Merriweather, I felt this game would be much closer than I had earlier anticipated. Early on it looked like a game that might go down to the final ticks of the clock. Offensively they had some hosses, and they were really handling the defensive front 6 (the 4-2 rush part of Pinkel's 4-4 defense). SIDE NOTE: Expect Bowling Green to pull a guard or tackle and attack the backside our defense. We rarely showed the ability to stop that weak-side sweep.
I'm still waiting on Attiyah Ellison. Don't get me wrong, I know he is still learning the game (and techniques), but IF he develops this defense will become very nasty. I feel he is the key. Wright and Mosley had limited penetration in the first half. Bynum was close to the ball (and I was close to winning in horse shoes the other day until my opponent had a ringer), but not quite there. Their running game, which was picking up big chunks of yards early, opened up a passing game. Yes, their receivers were open a lot. That number 83 in the Cardinal uniform brought back great memories of Jim Hart to Pat Tilley (except for the Ball State QB was no Jim Hart). We must improve the pass rush and we must improve the pass coverage.
Pressure in the 2nd half (both from our team and pressure to answer our scoring) helped tighten coverage, and slow them down. Part of the defensive problem in the first half was that they were on the field too much. Brad came out a little tight. I'm not sure why, but several long passes (we were open) instead of throwing to the receiver, he tried to launch the ball to a spot only the receiver could get to (and several times the receiver got there but only by diving). The MU running game was getting stuffed. There was very little movement off the line. The first half was all too much like the Bowling Green opener from 2001.
MIZZOU 41, BALL STATE 6
In the second half, MU looked totally different. The difference came after a couple of fumble recoveries subsequently turned into touchdowns. Suddenly business was booming, and business was getting pressure on their passer, shutting down the interior running lanes (we still had problems outside), and flying to the ball (can you say, "F-U-M-B-L-E!"). Ball State just ran out of time to run the ball in the 2nd half. Give credit to the Cardinals, if not for turnovers they might have been in this game to the end. Ball State was not a bad team.
Offensively, Brad Smith threw the ball, but before he did much of that, Brad did what Brad does best. He created (in the form of a 46-yard touchdown run). Suddenly, the field was open for the taking, and take they did. Zach Abron was running hard. The line was giving him room, but the two biggest differences I noticed was in play calling, and in Brad Smith. After a tight first half, he just came out and let it flow. For that matter, after a tight first series, so did Kirk Farmer. Kudos to Farmer, and congratulations to Darius Outlaw. Nice catch and run by DO. The first of potentially many this fall if the Ball State game was any indication.