The Missouri Tigers first true road game of the season started out as a tough battle, but Mizzou pulled away for a 31-21 win in Reno.
The Mizzou offense got out to a sluggish start once again on Friday, scoring only 12 points in the first half against and failing to score touchdowns on 2 red zone possessions. The Missouri rushing attack was entirely ineffective in the first half, only recording 20 yards against a Nevada defense that was giving up 178 yards per game on the ground this season.
Blaine Gabbert also looked a bit off in the first half, even though he threw for 187 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in the first 30 minuets. He consistently overthrew intended receivers and the offense never really got in a rhythm.
A crucial moment in the game happened after the Tigers went 3 and out on their opening drive. Jake Harry booted a 37-yard punt to the dynamic Vai Taua who proceeded to muff the kick, turning the ball over to the Tigers at the 50-yard line. Not only was the play itself a huge momentum change, Taua was injured on the play and never returned.
Mizzou took a 12-7 lead into the half after scoring on a 31-yard hookup between Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander with 2:09 left in the first half. Alexander added a 74-yard TD in the second half to finish with 9 catches, 169 yards and 2 TD's.
As they did against Bowling Green, the Tigers allowed a sustained touchdown drive to the opposition to start of the 2nd half. The Wolf Pack took a 13-12 lead after Colin Kaepernick capped off a 9 play, 48-yard drive with an 11-yard TD run. After that, the defense locked down on the Nevada rushing attack and didn't allow another touchdown until garbage time.
Mizzou took a 21-13 lead into the 4th quarter, but it looked as if the Wolf Pack would score when Luke Lippincott stretched out to pick up a first down inside the 2-yard line. Brain Coulter and Aldon Smith combined to force a fumble as Lippincott stretched and the Tigers recovered at the 2.
The ensuing drive put the drive away for the Tigers. Blaine Gabbert led the Tigers down to the Nevada 48 yard line, which is where Derrick Washington finally took over. The junior running back bounced a run outside and shed some blockers, gaining 42 yards to get the Tigers inside the 10-yard line. Gabbert finished off the drive with a TD pass to Jared Perry even with Wolf Pack defenders pursuing him hard.
Gabbert threw for 3 touchdowns to go along with no interceptions. He completed his 4th straight start with no interceptions and has gone 144 attempts in his Mizzou career without throwing a pick. Gabbert's 414 yards were good for the 7th most passing yards in a game in Mizzou history.
Grant Ressel continued his perfection, making all 4 of his field goals to improve to 10/10 on field goal tries this season. Ressel's right foot gave the Tigers points on 4 red zone drives where they couldn't punch it into the end zone.
Overall, the Tigers weathered an early offensive storm by the Nevada rushing attack fairly well and ended up playing a well disciplend, crisp game. Even though the Mizzou rushing game never got going, the passing game picked up the slack for the offense. The Tigers finish their non-conference schedule 4-0 for the 3rd straight season and will most likely go into their Thursday night showdown with the Nebraska Cornhuskers ranked in the polls again.
Check back here for more analysis later this weekend.