So a couple of days after the Missouri Tigers’ 24-17 loss to Texas Tech, much of the questioning directed at Gary Pinkel had to do with the offensive struggles. Is it Blaine Gabbert’s fault? Is the offensive line not doing their job? Is it the receivers not getting open? Not running the football enough? Wrong play calling? I think the answers to those questions are yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.
Gary Pinkel summed it up perfectly… “We’re just not executing.” He’s right. The Missouri offense is in a funk and you can’t point to one issue. It’s a number of issues that are starting to creep up. Where do I begin?
First, I’ll start with Blaine Gabbert. He’s got happy feet back there. He’s always had happy feet. I noticed it back in summer scrimmages that as soon as the pocket closes around him, he bails on his protection and rolls to his right. Going up against Missouri’s #2’s and 3’s in scrimmaging, he can roll out of trouble, wait for receivers to get open or take off and run 20 yards. Now, you put him up against defenses like Nebraska who can rattle his cage, and he’s lost his patience and his receivers can’t get open in time.
His lack of confidence also comes from an offensive line that got battered against NU. The front five were beat by three or four rushing lineman consistently in that Husker loss and even when the line was holding their blocks, Gabbert broke containment too soon and many plays have broken down.
Second, some responsibility has to be placed on the wide receivers and T.J. Moe explained that teams have moved to a man to man defense and he and the other receivers are not getting open in time. He said as a one-time quarterback, he knows Gabbert’s frustration. There is a mental clock and as the time ticks down to a certain point, Gabbert needs to throw the football and if those receivers are blocked at the line and don’t get open, the whole timing of the pass is thrown off.
The third issue is that the Tigers aren’t running the ball enough, but I think that also coincides with the play calling. When the offense is struggling, rarely are we seeing the Tigers run on first down. They’ll start out with a pass. If there is an incompletion, they have 2nd and 10. Then, they’ll call a run play and if it only picks three yards, now the Tigers are faced with a 3rd and 7. Many times, especially in that Tech game, the Tigers had 3rd and 9, 3rd and 10. Now, the Tigers are forced to become one dimensional and have to pass. The offense becomes more predictable in 3rd and long situations.
Call more running plays on first and second down. On the Tigers first score on Saturday, Henry Josey ran for six yards. On second and four, Gabbert ran for a first down, then Marcus Murphy busted his long TD run. On their second possession, MU gained two yards on a run. Threw an incomplete pass on 2nd and 8 and faced with third and long, threw another incompletion. On the third possession, MU called Kendial Lawrence’s number again on second and one and he busted off his 71 yard touchdown run. If the Tigers only gain two yards on a first down run, why not try another run? Even if you only gain three yards, you’re faced with a third and five. From there, you don’t need a medium range pass to get a first down or you can run the ball again. The Tigers are not doing a good job of getting themselves into manageable third and short situations.
Shorter pass routes with short third down situations can help dictate how much pressure the defense can put on Gabbert and those short third downs will lead to more success and hopefully settle down Gabbert a little more. The Tigers have gotten too comfortable or perhaps have felt forced to throw longer passes down field. At this point, slow and steady over the one big play is the way to go for Missouri.