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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Tigers Fall to the Bulldogs -- And to the Tigers

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2012 at 8:51 AM

Page 2 of 3

What the hell kind of gameplan was that, Gary? 
  • What the hell kind of gameplan was that, Gary? 
However, I am going to fault the Missouri coaching staff for their approach to the Bulldogs' defense as a whole. The playcalling was too cute by half, I thought, with the Tigers continually going to pass plays, throwing in trick plays, and just generally trying to misdirect the Georgia defense, when a more direct approach would have worked far better, I believe. I'm not sure if Gary Pinkel and David Yost thought the best way to beat the speed and aggression of the Georgia front was a ton of trickeration type plays, but that seemed to be the way they went. Plus, leaning on James Franklin's passing abilities just isn't a good idea, particularly when you have a defense much more vulnerable to what he can do with his legs.

Mizzou was playing without its top running back, but even so they have one of the most dynamic, dangerous ground attacks in all of college football. And, considering the defense the Tigers were going up against -- i.e. a Georgia defense with an insane pass rush but vulnerable to the run -- it seemed like a perfect direction to go. Heavy with the run, lean on the ground game, force the Bulldog defense to stay home and open up the passing game. Attack their weakness with your strength, and force them into a tough position.

Instead, the Tigers went pass heavy almost immediately. I think the plan of attack was to give Georgia what they weren't expecting, perhaps, and try to use their defensive aggressiveness against them. Unfortunately, playing to your opponent's strength rarely works, even if they don't see it coming. Particularly when you aren't nearly as adept at that form of attack.

There have been a few times over the years, particularly since Yost replaced David Christensen as offensive coordinator, that I've thought the Tigers have, for lack of a better term, outsmarted themselves. Too cute and too clever in the playcalling, too eager to go fancy and break out the gadget plays in every situation. I like to call it Mike Martz Syndrome, when an obviously intelligent coach manages to work himself and his team into a hopeless knot by trying to prove just how smart he is. (It could also be termed La Russitis, but only in the case of bullpen usage issues.) When your team is strong where the opposition is weak, exploit that. Exploit it until they force you to do something else. Don't get overly clever, thinking you're going to force a top-level pass rush off their game by passing a lot. It doesn't work that way.

The worst part of it was, the Tigers actually had success running the ball, when they did so. Marcus Murphy averaged better than seven yards a carry, and Kendial Lawrence went over five per. The problem was, that was on six carries for Murphy and just eight for Lawrence. The team's top two running backs carried the ball a combined fourteen times. That's...insane.

The only Missouri runner who really didn't see any success was James Franklin, who picked up just 25 yards on 20 carries. It's a little tough to really blame Franklin for his failings, though, when the gameplan gave him zero shot to successfully run the ball. Empty backfield sets rarely equal successful running plays. Shocking, I know. If the Tigers are going to win, they're going to have to hand the ball off 30 or 40 times a game. That's all there is to it. You know that whole Keep It Simple, Stupid thing people like to throw out there? Well that's the Mizzou offense with James Franklin. No tricks. No double crossing routes. No empty backfield looks with five receivers out wide. Run a frigging wishbone if you have to, guys. Just simplify. Ugh.

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