• All the praise we had given Blaine Gabbert up until the game on Saturday meant jack squat until we saw him perform as a starter in a real NCAA football game. I guess we were on to something. The sophomore went on to meet the praise we have given him this offseason by wowing the Missouri Tiger fan en route to a 38-9 demolition of the Illinois Fighting Illini. I think this is just a sign of things to come in the next two to three years from Gabbert. He has all the skills and smarts to be consistently this good, he just needs to avoid mistakes and trust his talent. So far, so good.
• The Tigers lost a couple of huge threats in the passing game in Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman this off-season, but the wide outs of 2009 don't seem too worried about that. Danario Alexander, Jared Perry, Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson and Andrew Jones are all solid targets for Gabbert and we saw that on Saturday. The wide array of talents that this group has (speed, size, jumping ability, great hands, good toughness, etc.) should make the sophomore quarterback giddy.
• Alexander's 10 catches were a career high, but I bet he matches or surpasses that number in another game this season. He is going to be huge this year.
• The defense as a whole was much improved. Although they only recorded three sacks on Juice Williams this season as compared to the five the D recorded in the '08 game, I believe the pass rush was extraordinary on Saturday. The Tigers rarely rushed more than four players against Illinois' front five, but Juice Williams rarely had time to sit back and go for the deep ball like he did last year. The game plan was laid out well by new defensive coordinator Dave Steckel in that he forced Williams to be extremely accurate all day throwing into a nice, solid zone on every single play. Sure, Williams exposed some holes in the zone a couple of times, but it was obvious that he was not good enough to consistently move his team down the field against the zone and Steckel prepared for that wonderfully.
• I noticed a couple of times in practice that the three pass rushing defensive ends were all on the field at the same time, what seemed an interesting experiment at the time by Dave Steckel. Well, it turns out that Steckel liked the look so much he gave it a name and used it in the game. The "Scorpion" was used probably eight to ten times against Illinois on Sunday and it seemed to work well. Look for more of this defensive formation in the future.
• After the game, the only concern I had was the loose play of the cornerbacks, but I think that was all a part of Steckel's plan (as I said above). If Steck sees the same weakness in accuracy he saw in Juice Williams in Bowling Green's Tyler Sheean, I think the game plan will be similar. However, Sheehan is an accurate passer, so I think we will see some more close coverage by the cornerbacks and more linebackers blitzing this week.
• I must say I was skeptical about the kicking situation coming into the game, but sophomore Grant Ressel looked very calm and collected going a perfect three for three on field goal tries, including two over 40 yards. He doesn't have the leg that Jeff Wolfert had in his time as a Tiger, but maybe he will be a dependable guy inside 45.
I can't think of anything negative about Week 1 for the Tigers, so I guess we will just be positive this week! We will have a lot of content this week looking ahead to the Bowling Green game this Saturday at Farout. Join the discussion on our message boards (click here)!