Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Arch Rivalry Recap

By Commissioner

The Good

-Jeremy Maclin snatched momentum away from the Illini with a 99-yard kick-off return to put the Tigers back in front just 13 seconds after falling behind. I’m not sure Mizzou has ever had a game-breaker like Maclin and it’s scary to think what could happen if he’s knocked out of a crucial game (more on this later).

-On a rough day for the defense, Sean Witherspoon stepped up and single-handedly sealed the win for the Tigers with two huge interceptions.

-With the spotlight on him in his first college game, Elvis Fisher delivered in a big way at left tackle. He kept Chase Daniel clean all afternoon (the vaunted Illini D-line never put much pressure on the QB, and the one sack late was a coverage sack). Perhaps Fisher’s best effort was on Derrick Washington’s second touchdown run, where he opened up the whole on the left side, then sprinted downfield and knocked Vontae Davis out of the play.

-Speaking of Washington, he was incredible in his debut, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and scoring twice. His second touchdown run – thanks to some poor tacking by the Illini – made him look like Earl Campbell.

-Daniel turned in a good performance that would be great for most other quarterbacks. Throwing for 314 yards and 3 TDs is a good way to start off the Heisman campaign.

-Chase Coffman also left his mark on the game with more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. The play everyone will remember came early in the second half, when he juked past two defenders, jumped over a third, and carried a host of tacklers for 10 more yards. If he’s not an All-American, the voters simply are not paying attention.

-Also worthy of note: Styker Sulak was all over the field, notching 3 huge sacks and blocking an extra point... Jeff Wolfert nailed a career-long 51-yard field goal and was excellent on kickoffs... Tommy Saunders not only caught two touchdowns, but also wrangled three bad snaps as the holder on special teams and filled in admirably as a punt returner.

The Bad

-Daniel’s one mistake was a big one. He failed to look before throwing a screen pass, which ended up in the arms of an Illinois defender, who took it to the house.

-Injuries seemed to plague the Tigers on Saturday. I – along with every other Tiger fan – was holding my breath when Maclin went to the locker room. Luckily he will be back soon. The news is not so good for Steve Redmond, who is lost for the season. There was another scary moment when Carl Gettis – the lone bright spot in the Mizzou secondary – went down with an injury, but he appeared to be okay.

-We’ve come to expect such great things from William Moore that we are disappointed when he doesn’t completely dominate a game. He still led the team in tackles and was apparently limited by an injury... so hopefully we’ll see him have a greater impact on games going forward.

-Fourth and inches. I’m not saying we have to have a fullback. I’m not even saying we have to get under center. But why in the world do we insist on running a QB draw with Chase when everyone in the world knows it is coming? At least put a running back in there to disguise it or something. Frustrating.

The Ugly

-There’s no getting around it... Mizzou’s secondary played an ugly game on Saturday. Giving up 5 touchdown passes to anyone is bad. Giving up 5 touchdown passes to Juice Williams is just ridiculous, regardless of how much time he spent with Donovan McNabb this offseason (Did you know he spent a week with him? Did you?). I’m not sure whether the blame goes to the coaches or the players or both, but it better be sorted out by the time conference play arrives.

Play of the Game

There are plenty to choose from here – Spoon’s pick-6, Washington’s incredible run, Coffman’s hurdle – but the play of the day was clearly Maclin’s kick-off return. The Illini had all the momentum at that point, but Maclin took it all away in just 13 seconds. Kudos also to Earl Goldsmith for throwing two great blocks on the play.

Hit of the Game

Surprise, surprise. The winner here was not Sulak, Moore, Spoon, or any of the other heavy hitters on defense. Instead, it was 5’5” Tremane Vaughn, who laid a serious blow on an Illinois receiver late in the second half.

Seen and Heard in the Stands

Commissioner and Co. showed up in the ESPN broadcast after Mizzou’s first touchdown if you look very carefully... No near-fights with Illini fans this year, which was nice... I didn’t hear any B-C-S chants from the Illini. I wonder why... Crowd looked to be about 55-45 in favor of the Tigers, but there were a surprising number of empty seats in the upper deck... I received a text message and two voicemails telling me that Maclin’s injury was just a sprain. You guys know me too well; we were freaking out... Gold Rush was about 75 percent effective, but not nearly as good as Nebraska last year... Right before the opening play of the second drive, Born-a-tiger called a fake to Maclin on the end around, followed by a hand-off to Washington off the right side. The man knows his Tigers because that’s exactly what Mizzou did, gaining about 20 yards...