Posted: 9:23 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013
By Bill C.
MUtigers.com: Mizzou Dominates Indiana, 45-28
MUtigers.com: Mizzou/Indiana Post-Game Notes
The Trib: Missouri handles Indiana, 45-28
The Trib: MU victory is kind of a big deal
KC Star: After a halting first half, Missouri routs Indiana 45-28
KC Star: Missouri-Indiana game report
Post-Dispatch: Tigers hold down Indiana in 45-28 win
PowerMizzou: Bloomington blow-out
Indianapolis Star: Missouri rolls to 45-28 victory over Indiana
Missouri’s stock of fast, big wideouts gashed the IU secondary in the Tigers’ 45-28 win at Memorial Stadium.
Marcus Lucas had 10 catches for 101 yards — all in the first half — and Dorial Green-Beckham finished with eight for 105 yards. It’s the first time Missouri had a pair of receivers finish with more than 100 yards since the 2010 Insight Bowl.
Quarterback James Franklin found six different receivers, and four of them had at least five grabs — Lucas, Green-Beckham, Jimmie Hunt (6-44) and L’Damian Washington (5-77).
Green-Beckham and Washington caught touchdowns, and three receivers had at least one catch of more than 20 yards.
"We felt like coming into the game that James has been having good practices and those guys have been working well in practice," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "We felt like we could throw the ball and throw it effectively."
There were some big gains, sure, but Missouri's offense wasn't centered around big plays last night. It was all about James Franklin distributing the ball to the left and right, occasionally handing off up the middle, and matriculating the ball down the field over and over and over and over again.
The sideline-to-sideline stuff worked all game long, and when Mizzou's offense made a mistake it was usually because the Tigers went for the dagger too early. Both of Franklin's first-quarter interceptions were of the arm-punt variety, far downfield. The first one was on third-and-long, of course (watching live, I assumed there was a miscommunication between Franklin and Marcus Lucas; on replay, it was clearly a massive overthrow), but the second one was a play-action bomb attempt on first down.
Short passes don't necessarily look good for your averages, and for the game, Franklin averaged only 6.5 yards per pass attempt, which isn't very good. Indiana tackled well and prevented big plays for the most part, and kudos to them for that. But despite what seemed like a generally solid game plan on Indiana's part, Franklin simply took whatever he was given -- and you're almost always given something -- and at the end of the game, Mizzou scored 45 points and left quite a few more on the field. Can't ask for much more than that.
Already standing 6 feet 5 inches tall, Ealy jumped a bit higher and pulled in the interception. With nothing but green grass in front of him, the 275-pound defensive end sprinted 49 yards for the touchdown to put the Tigers up 28-14, a lead they wouldn't relinquish in a 45-28 win over the Hoosiers on Saturday.
The interception return was reminiscent of the decisive play in Missouri's win over Toledo, in which defensive end Markus Golden intercepted a pass and returned it for a 70-yard touchdown. Missouri's defensive line now has as many interceptions returned for touchdowns as they do sacks through three games after another game without a sack.
Coming into the game, Missouri's focus was on Indiana's up-tempo offense. The quick-hit passing game and no-huddle attack slowed down the Tigers' pass rush, but three first-half turnovers from Missouri's offense also contributed to the defense's fatigue.
Indiana's offense generated the pregame hype and had a few big passing plays, but for the Hoosier offense, it was mostly a mirage. Missouri forced Indiana to punt on all four of its possessions in the first quarter before intercepting two passes in the second quarter, which gives the Tigers eight interceptions on the season, one more than they had in 2012.
I noted last week that line play was going to be huge. Indiana's lines weren't very good on either side of the ball -- the defensive line had some play-making ability but was pretty poor from play to play -- and the Tigers needed to dominate there. For the most part, they did. Shane Ray punked a left tackle early in the game (proof that QB Hurries are a worthless stat: Ray didn't get a hurry for that play even though Nate Sudfeld had to throw an emergency dumpoff while almost horizontal to the ground), and while the Tigers did not record a sack (or a hurry, ahem), they were constantly pushing the IU line backwards and forcing quick decisions and back-footed passes from Sudfeld. It was exactly what we hoped to see, and we saw it.
On the offensive side of the ball, I was less impressed, at least in the first three quarters. I realize that Twitter was complaining that Missouri wasn't running enough -- that's what Twitter does -- but frankly, the short passing was working infinitely better than the run. With Max Copeland out and Anthony Gatti getting his first start (and rotating with Brad McNulty and, I think, Mitch Hall), the interior of the line struggled to open up any consistent running room. But by the end of the game, with Mizzou milking clock and approaching 100 plays (hell, if the game were close, the Tigers might have reached 110; alas, they finished with just 97), IU gave out a bit. The Hoosiers still held seven of Mizzou's final 12 rushes to three or fewer yards, but the other five carries went for 79 yards, including the game-icing 45-yarder from Russell Hansbrough.
There's still work to be done on the offensive line, but despite an iffy success rate, it's difficult to complain too much when you gain 280 yards on the ground (297 without sacks).
(Oh yeah, and I think Marcus Murphy might be the best running back on the team, at least when there aren't enormous holes involved. Dude can maneuver with little space.)
The third quarter also marked the return of Wilson, Missouri's senior linebacker captain. He sat alone in the locker room for the first half, the remnants of the targeting ejection that forced him to miss most of the second half against Toledo two weeks ago. Wilson said Indiana provided a TV for him to watch the game -- "It was really blurry. I couldn't even see the numbers."
"Luckily it was good or I might have broke the TV," Wilson said.
"I re-showered and just chilled for the first quarter," Wilson said. "I was there with Don (Barnes), our equipment manager. Toward the end of the first quarter, he started getting me ready to go, normal kind of warm up and get ready."
Upon his return, Missouri added a wrinkle to its defense. The Tigers almost exclusively ran a 3-3-5 defense in the third quarter, with three defensive linemen and three linebackers. Brothers lined up on the weakside, Donovan Bonner in the middle and Wilson on the strongside.
Facing that new look -- the first time Missouri's defense showed that formation this season -- Indiana went three and out to start the half. On their second drive, the Hoosiers gained a first down, but Wilson registered three tackles to force another punt. That would be the only earned first down of the quarter for the Hoosiers.
"Coach Stec had a plan from the get-go,"Wilson said. "That was the plan."
When I saw that Indiana gained 475 yards, my first thought was "That can't be right." It was, of course -- Cody Latimer had the 77-yard catch-and-run in the first half, Shane Wynn caught a 68-yarder in the fourth quarter (on a play that proved that Matt White still isn't very fast), and the Hoosiers gained 80 yards in nine plays on the final garbage-time drive. So that's 11 plays for 225 yards. But that means that IU's other 68 plays gained just 250; that's 3.7 per play. While Mizzou was incredibly consistent from drive to drive (the Tigers averaged at least 5.0 yards per play on nine of 14 possessions), IU got most of its yards in two plays and in garbage time. Yes, the safety help over the top on Wynn's touchdown (and on a late lob that Braylon Webb couldn't quite get to on the final drive) was iffy; but all told, this was an outstanding defensive effort.
The switch to the 3-3-5, of course, was particularly intriguing, and it was so successful that you wonder how much the Tigers might move to that look the rest of the way. Neither of the next two opponents -- Arkansas State or Vanderbilt -- are particularly impressive up front, and if Mizzou can hold the fort with three linemen and a linebacker attacking from any number of directions, that allows the Tigers to get a lot of speed onto the field. I doubt a 3-3-5 would be the primary method for attacking a power-based Vandy offense, but it's a weapon in the arsenal, and that's exciting.
PowerMizzou: PMTV-HD: Indiana Post Game
Bloomington Herald-Times: Photo gallery: IU vs Missouri
Mizzou Network: Regions Bank PostGame: Pinkel after win over Indiana
Mizzou Network: Regions Bank Post Game: James Franklin after Mizzou's win over IU
Bottom line: Mistakes? Sure. But this game was basically supposed to be a tossup, and it was disappointing that the Tigers only won by 17. Complain if you want, but this was incredibly satisfying.