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WMD's Armchair QB: Declawed Edition

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Dawgs Declaw Tigers. What Did We Learn?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Peeps, that was a solid win last night. Mizzou has an elite D and we made them look bad at times. It wasn't always pretty, but you always gotta win a few games "ugly" every season. So now we must ask ourselves the weekly question: What did we learn? Here's what WMD saw:

Defense

1. The D continues to make me feel bi-polar. Mizzou hadn't scored a touchdown in 33 days then we give them one. But on the other hand, we held tough and kept them out of the endzone for a garbage time TD. And we only gave up 13 on the night, which is a great night by pretty much any standard, especially in this era of football where every rule favors the offenses.

2. A deeper dive into the stats shows we actually played a very good game on D. Mizzou had just 322 total yards of offense and a nice chunk of that came on their final possession in the 4th. In the age of offense where 400 total yards in the benchmark, 322 is a complete shutdown for a D. We limited true freshman QB Drew Lock to just 11-26 passing for a paltry 107 yards with 2 INTs. We also had 5 sacks and 3 QBH. Mizzou was limited to 5-16 on 3rd down and 0-2 on 4th down.

3. The one stat that does concern me: 215 rushing yards allowed. Now to be fair, Mizzou got 72 of that on one play in garbage time. My problem is the TD drive in the pouring rain when they just rammed it down our throats and made us like it. So let's discuss that drive.

Two things went wrong on that drive: 1) We changed what we were doing on D. For some unknown reason, Manny got cute and reverted to bend-but-don't-break with just an 11 point lead. I'm guessing he didn't want to give up a big play in the crappy weather, but Mizzou proceeded to have their OL work us. 2) LBs lost some discipline, got out of their gap assignments, and over pursued. This left cutback lanes that Mizzou exploited. Almost every big run on that series was the result of their RB cutting back. Can't have that happen. Period.

4. From a non-stat, eye test perspective it was a good night. We came out ready to play and got a quick 3 & out to get Dak & the offense the ball. There was good intensity most of the night. And I say most of the night because we clearly lost some intensity and focus during the downpour and then when we put in several of the Pups for garbage time.

5. Helmet sticker for Kivon Coman. He had a huge game and has really put it all together the last few weeks. He had an early INT of Lock then had a couple of TD saving tackles and a TFL. He was around the ball all night, finishing second on the team with 7 total tackles. And he capped off his night with really good pass coverage to prevent Mizzou from scoring the garbage time TD.

6. Chris Jones had his best night of the season and it wasn't close. The numbers don't jump out at you, as he finished with just 2 tackles. But he had one of our 5 sacks. He was blowing up Mizzou's OL all night and could have just as easily had 3 more sacks. Don't know if we decided to finally turn him loose and let him penetrate upfield more or if he did it on his own, but I liked it. Need to see more of it because he's capable of doing that every week.

7. Nick James continues to make himself money. He had 4 tackles last night and was always hustling. He might be the most improved player on D. Love watching that big dude disrupt everything.

8. Beni Brown continues to quietly be one of the best LBs in the SEC. 8 total tackles, 2 TFL, and a 1/2 sack for him last night and it felt like I never heard his name called.

9. AJ Jefferson continues to go Beast Mode.

10. Apparently Jamaal Peters drew his first start of the season last night. I'm a little bit surprised because Brandon Bryant has been our best S so far this season and we just discussed how good Coman has been lately. There are going to be a lot more of those for Peters in his career. And to his credit, he had a good night with 5 tackles.

11. Speaking of Bryant, he had his typical good night. He was 3rd on the team with 6 total tackles.

12. Gerri Green continues to show why he was the talk of fall camp defensively. He had a really nice pick of Lock and wound up with 3 total tackles and 1 TFL to go with it.

13. Can't talk about the D without giving them credit for holding Mizzou to a FG after we got a punt blocked. They were in a tough position but got the job done and limited the damage. If Mizzou gets a TD there, it's a huge momentum swing.

14. Deontay Evans continues to piss me off as much as any player on the D. He's been relegated to garbage time, which is good. But he still managed to try to KO Taveze Calhoun in that limited amount of playing time. Can we please stop letting him dress out? I've had it with his screw ups. If there is one player left on D we can't lose, it's Calhoun, much less because on of our own guys lights him up.

Special Teams:

1. Just when I give Mullen credit for fixing our STs, we have a bad night. Punt block sets up a FG and Westin Graves misses his 2nd FG attempt of the season.

2. Speaking of Graves, I give him a pass on missing that FG. It was a long one at 50 yards and he was kicking a wet, heavy ball. Mullen put him in a bad position to succeed. Supposedly he was making them from 55 in warmups. He nailed his 36 yard attempt and all his PATs.

3. Despite the punt block, Logan Cooke had a nice night. He had 4 punts for 167, 41.8 YPP, and 2 inside the 20. His average for the game wound up being 33.4 YPP thanks to the block.

4. Return units continue to be solid. Brandon Holloway's big return to set up a score before the half was huge and really shifted momentum back in our favor.

Offense:

1. Offense continues to be herky-jerky, as Mullen likes to say. We had 430 yards of total offense, 303 passing and 127 rushing. We struggled to run the ball before the 4th quarter. But our passing game was on fire. We wound up running 77 plays offensively, which is about where we should be on an average night. It definitely hurt us not having Malik Dear and Dontavian Lee.

2. This might be one of the least physical OLs I've seen at MSU in recent memory. They struggle to open run lanes consistently and got pushed around by Mizzou's DL in the rain. Dak was under the most pressure he's been all season, with the possible exception of aTm. To be fair, Mizzou has a big time DL. And it didn't help that Elgton Jenkins was hurt. Then Rufus Warren goes down and we had to completely re-shuffle the OL. Hopefully it's nothing serious with those guys and we get them back soon.

3. WRs continue to be the strength of the team. 9 guys caught a ball last night.

4. RBs continue to be a gigantic cluster. But a large part of that is Mullen not putting them in position to succeed. Here are the stat lines from last night:

Aeris Williams - 6 for 49, 7.7 YPC, long of 15

Brandon Holloway - 6 for 24, 4 YPC, long of 9

Ashton Shumpert - 8 for 15, 1.9 YPC, long of 7

Seriously, how does Shump lead the RBs in carries? He had a run in the 2nd quarter that really encapsulated everything wrong with him as a RB for me. He takes the handoff from Dak and starts "running" forward. OL actually opens a nice hole to his right, and all Shump has to do is cut back for a 6 or 7 yard gain minimum. Instead, Shump completely misses it because he's busy looking at his feet. Then he gets himself off-balance by leaning too far forward so someone breathing on him takes him down and basically tackles himself for a 2 yard gain. And don't even get me started on the two blocks he missed in pass pro, one of which was a personal foul for chop blocking.

Then we have Holloway. The dude's tough, but he's like a deer on ice in the rain. He's so small he can't pass block. And then he had another fumble in traffic because he's tiny and got wrecked. Frankly, he's overextended right now and that's on Dan. He isn't a feature back and should be limited to about 5 touches a night. 3 of those should be catching the ball on screens and swing passes. The other 2 should be on a jet sweep to get him moving and use his speed to get to the edge. Coaching.

Aeris Williams was unsurprisingly our best RB last night. Yes, he had the horrible drop on the flat route early. No excuses, gotta make that play. At the very least that was a first down and keeps the chains moving. Needless to say, Mullen sits him until the 4th quarter. Then he finally touches the ball and looks good. Just about all his rushing yards came right up the gut. He showed some nice power and vision. Most of all, he showed incredible balance on his long run to the outside. He got off balance and looked like he was going to trip, but was able to stay on his feet until he could regain his footing. It was a really nice thing to see.

4. If you aren't enjoying what Dak is doing, please do all of us a favor and stop watching football. What he's done in under two seasons as a full time starter is unreal. He threw for 300+ again last night and added 68 yards on the ground. And he threw for another 4 TDs. All while having to scramble and extend the play more than usual because our soft, injury riddled OL was struggling. In the process, Dak became just the 6th player in SEC history to be responsible for 100 TDs and 10th all time on the total yards list. Want the names on the 100 TD list? Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, Aaron Murray, Danny Wuerffel and Chris Leak. And for all you BearShark trolls who are reading, Dak passed Eli on the total yards list. Dak > Eli, officially.

Dak also owns virtually every QB record worth mentioning at MSU. Folks, enjoy these last 4 games. We're going to miss Dak tremendously next year. We may never see another quite like him at MSU. Him not being talked about in the Heisman discussion is a crime. I'd say the only QB having a season as good or better than Dak is Boykin at TCU.

5. Bear Wilson had a huge night, but he was STILL underutilized. He had 4 catches for 102 and 2 TDs. He bailed us out on a couple of 3rd & long situations by just being more physical than the DB covering him. And he continues to be a beast run blocking. We just need to force feed him the way Northern Miss does Treadwell.

6. Fred Ross is having a huge season. He added another 11 catches for 115 and 1 TD last night. You can see why Oklahoma State wanted him so badly.

7. Love the guts from Gabe Myles to give it a go, but he clearly wasn't 100% last night. I'd be shocked if he were 70%. He just didn't have the burst or moves you expect from him. Coaches need to sit a guy when he isn't ready.

8. With Myles struggling and Dear hurt, we should've seen more of Donald Gray. He had the breakout SEC game against UK two weeks ago and then disappeared again last night. He had just one catch for 5 yards. Get him the football.

9. Darrion Hutcherson has really evolved into a nice weapon for Dak. His size is a huge mismatch and he's got good hands. He's also an excellent run blocker. I'm just about ready to say he shouldn't come off the field. He's been that good lately. It's a shame it took him a year and a half to adjust to SEC play. But that's on the coaches. Gotta get these guys ready faster.

10. Didn't see Justin Johnson in the game last night. With our injury issues on the OL, I'd have liked to have seen us go to more 2 TE sets to help them out. JJ has earned more PT and is a tremendous blocker.

11. Justin Malone got eaten up when he had to move outside to OT. Not entirely his fault, but yikes it was bad. NFL scouts aren't going to like seeing that on tape.

12. Nice to see my Dawg Fred Brown grab a TD last night.

13. Stonehands Morrow dropped Dak's best pass of the night, and it would have been a TD. Can't throw it any better than that. Gotta catch it. He's been a decent role player but definitely hasn't lived up to the hype.

Coaching/Miscellaneous:

1. Mullen continues to be stubborn with our RBs. We may not have one guy capable of doing everything, but I'm sick of his double standard. Aeris drops a pass and he gets yanked off the field and buried. And Mullen told the media several weeks back the reason Lee & Williams don't play more is pass blocking. Yet somehow he gives Holloway a pass for a complete inability to pass block. Then last night Shump completely whiffed two blocks in pass pro. On the chop block personal foul, Shump barely got a piece of the DL and completely turned loose the blitzing LB that was his actual responsibility. I haven't seen one of the freshmen make a mistake that bad in pass pro. I swear, Mullen does this stuff just to troll the fans and prove how smart he is. I've had it. Play the best players, period. I don't care if it's not a huge difference, but every position matters and maximizes the chances of winning.

2. Why does it take so long for us to get guys ready to play? Donald Gray has shown flashes but isn't being used enough. It's taken Hutcherson a year and a half to have an impact. Lee & Williams aren't playing enough at the easiest position in football to have an early impact. Traver Jung & Martinas Rankin are both redshirting. The list just goes on and on and on. It's called coaching. Get these guys ready to play, dammit. Enough excuses.

3. Why is Taveze Calhoun in the game during garbage time? Unacceptable.

4. I'm normally not a fan of white helmets, but I thought the ones we wore last night looked good. Wouldn't mind seeing them again, like when we play aTm on the road.

5. Our crowd that traveled was loud. That was as close to a neutral site environment as I've heard in a long time. Virtually no home field advantage for Mizzou.

6. I love the Thursday night crew of Tessitore, Palmer, and Pollack. Excellent job by those guys. Palmer & Pollack in particular both do a really good job of talking us up.

7. What are we doing in practice to get so many guys hurt? First Redmond, now Jenkins, Dear, and Lee. All 4 might've been non-contact injuries. I have no idea. But that's a huge coincidence if so. Ridiculous to have so many key players beat up coming off a freaking bye week. You're supposed to use that time to get healthy, not put more players on the shelf.

WMD's Thoughts:

Overall, we got a solid win. Sloppy night, little bit of a trap game, but we found a way to win. The heavy rain really highlighted our weaknesses. What concerned me is how we lost intensity and let it get into our heads for a while. But we found a way to dial it back up in the second half, which is positive. I've seen us lose games like that way too many times. Hopefully the injuries to Warren, Jenkins, Dear, and Lee aren't serious and they're all available for Bama. Jenkins might be the most important guy of the group. I've seen some speculation that Dear and Lee might've had a case of "Moultrie Knee" last night, for you conspiracy theorist types. The D has really emerged as a big time group. The emergence of Coman, Bryant, and Peters has really transformed the back end. Offense seemed to struggle some and still hung 31 on a D giving up less than 13 PPG coming into the game. If we ever get all the pieces working on O, it will be scary good with how well Dak is playing.

We're 7-2 and have 10 days to get ready for Bama. We need to get the OL situation shored up quickly. I'd love to see us sit Devon Desper, if we're healthy enough at OT, and play Dion Calhoun. We need to add some guys who are physical and just flat mean. Calhoun is one of those guys. Big 3 game stretch starts now. Let's just hope "Coach to Win" Mullen shows up next weekend instead of "Coach Not to Lose" Mullen. Bama is beatable, but it's going to take the best game we've played all season.

That's how I saw it. You know the drill. Fire in the hole!

WMD