Surprisingly, I'm not feeling nearly as bad about tonight's loss as I did last week in Baton Rouge.
In reading some pre-game comments, in-game comments, and some post-game rants, some of you continue to think of Missouri as the mediocre team that was decimated by injuries last year as opposed to the team that has big, talented 5-star receivers, the best tandem of DE's in the SEC, and a starting 22 with 18 upperclassmen that will be ranked No. 4 in the nation tomorrow.
This is Pinkel's model. Every 3 years he'll have a Top 10 team with a bunch of veterans. Then they will be average for a couple of years while they transition to a new cycle of young starters.
Let's talk A&M offense first. It's my opinion that if your star QB has a bad thumb and a bad ankle, and he can't run or pass to his usual standards, then you go with the next healthy guy. If that's Hill, then see if the moment is too big for him or if he rises to the occasion. If he stumbles and can't handle it, then you bring Manziel in to "manage" the game.
Other than Labhart and occasionally Walker, the receivers did very little in terms of running routes and getting open. Evans has shown the past two weeks that if he gets a little frustrated or down, he will zone out and disappear on the field. In my preview, I was hoping for more swing passes to the RB's, but we really don't execute those plays well. It's obvious what we're trying to do and throw it much too quick, and we don't let the rushers into the backfield.
With the exception of the one Trey Williams run where he countered and reversed for about 20 yards, A&M had success running downhill. The slow-developing counter runs are a recipe for a 3-yard loss in the most inopportune times...like 2nd and 1.
On defense, I have mixed feelings about the performance. They had so many stops in the first half, and really only buckled for one drive...and they even stopped Missouri on a couple of very short fields.
In the second half, the defense again gave up a long TD drive and then quickly allowed their Tigers to grab the lead and it looked like another second half where the defense collapsed. But with quite a few freshmen in there like Daeshon Hall and Jay Arnold, the defense got aggressive and reeled off several stops while the offense tied up the game. In the end, while Missouri finally broke through with a long run on a 3rd and 1, the defense gave the offense two chances to drive down and win the game.
Nobody is going to confuse what we saw tonight for a great defensive effort, but it was a solid effort. Had anybody given you the over/under for Missouri at 28, 99% of you would have said take the "over". Everything played into Missouri's favor tonight, and the defense held Missouri under its 36 point SEC scoring average and held an explosive Tiger offense to 460 yards of total offense...not great, but bad by 2013 Missouri offensive standards.
But what has me not feeling too bad about this game is that so many of the freshmen that Snyder went with tonight actually played well and made a difference. I thought Daeshon Hall had his best game as an Aggie and played virtually the whole game. I was asking why the staff didn;t play jay ARnold more after one active series in the first half, and then he goes out and plays the entire second half in multiple schemes...and registers a couple of sacks. And the times they lined him up inside, he was a frickin bulldog getting push against a much bigger and much older Missou OL. Claiborne had a good game, and I thought even Jordan Mastrogiovanni was active and made plays.
Now, if this modest improvement was performed by the veterans, I'd be less impressed. But I thought these young guys took a step forward tonight and that's why I don't feel as poorly about this game as some of you seem.
What little frustration I have is with the staff. First, it took them this long to actually make the move to some of these younger, more talented players. Second, for the second straight week we won the coin toss and elected to receive with a wounded QB (and in the case last week, bad weather). I understand it's an attitude thing to want the ball to start the game, but deferring is the better option because it gives you a lot more flexibility at the end of the half knowing you are getting the ball to start the 3rd quarter. There's a reason why EVERY NFL team defers when they win the coin toss.
Second, time management was very questionable. I know it was likely a moot point, but A&M's failed 3rd down with Evans getting stuffed occurred at the 2:40 mark. A&M has ZERO urgency and in fact takes its time getting off the field before finally calling a timeout at 2:13 before the punt. Had the punt unit briskly run onto the field and kicked, A&M would have had all three timeouts and about 2:20 remaining. So, a three-and-out gives A&M about two minutes to score. The best possible scenario had A&M stopped Missouri with only two timeouts would be about a minute. It seems small now because Missouri got a first down, but a mistake like that will cost A&M a game at some point...and time management isn't that hard either. It really isn't.
Overall, it was a disappointing end to the season but under the circumstances the team played a solid game given the injuries to Manziel and the quality opponent on the road. If it were me, I would have started Hill, and if he struggled under the pressure I'd go to Manziel as a safety net.
Hop's Game Analysis - Missouri
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