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Midseason Report Card: Featuring the Undefeated Missouri Tigers

Shane PattonCorrespondent IOctober 13, 2010

Midseason Report Card: Featuring the Undefeated Missouri Tigers

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    The 2010 Missouri Tigers have been through enough drama to last the rest of the season. With a suspension and then outright dismissal from the team, the Derrick Washington saga started a trend that head coach Gary Pinkel won't soon forget.

    With off-field issues circling the Tiger program for the first time in Pinkel's tenure at Mizzou, the 2010 preseason couldn't end soon enough.

    Now that Pinkel has clamped down on his players' (and coaches') behavior, we can now focus on what we love most, football! Missouri Tiger Style!

Offense

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Positives:

    With Mizzou quarterback Blaine Gabbert having one year of big boy football now under his belt, the junior signal caller hit the field in 2010 with high expectations.

    His numbers may be a bit down from last season, but Gabbert has completed 66.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for 1,230 yards (38th in the country) with seven touchdowns and only three interceptions.

    With the departure of running back Derrick Washington, the Tigers began using a running-back-by-committee approach, although freshman tailback Henry Josey has the most yards out of the backfield, with 240.

    Josey is averaging 7.3 yards per carry, with his longest run totaling 62 yards.

    Sophomore wide receiver T.J. Moe has really stepped up his game, with 44 receptions and 479 yards already this season, which has him ranking third in the NCAA in receptions per game.

    "Tight end" Michael Egnew has also played well this season, with 39 receptions and 350 yards per game.

    Negatives:

    Gabbert will need to show more consistency as the season progresses. He has too many turnovers—three interceptions and four fumbles (two were recovered by MU) in only five games is too many, and will hurt the Tigers if not corrected.

    Missouri needs to run the ball on a consistent basis. I realize that offensive coordinator David Yost uses some pass plays as run plays (the hated bubble screen), but Josey has emerged as a serious threat in the backfield and should be used more often.

    Midseason Grade: B-

Defense

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    Positives:

    Missouri's defense hasn't really invoked fear in their opponents in recent years. Kind of a bend-but-don't-break philosophy. Not so much this season ...

    Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has his defense playing at an incredibly high level. The Tigers are coming off a shutout of the Colorado Buffaloes (only their second in 15 years of Big 12 play) and don't appear to be letting up any time soon.

    Even with defensive leader Aldon Smith out with a broken fibula, the Tigers are only allowing 11.2 points per game, which ranks third in the country.

    Missouri is ranked ninth in the country with nine passes intercepted.

    Negatives:

    The only real negative here is Missouri's run defense. The Tigers are ranked No. 41 in rush defense, allowing 129.2 yards on the ground per game.

    Not bad, but I had to find something. By the way, MU is ranked No. 40 in pass defense, allowing just 189.4 yards in the air per game.

    If these remain the Tigers' only negatives on defense this season, then they could be holding up the Big 12 Trophy at the end of the season.

    The only thing going against the Mizzou defense after five games would be strength of schedule, but the defensive unit has done everything asked of them so far, and they can only play the opponent in front of them ...

    Midseason Grade: A+

Special Teams

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Positives:

    Kicker Grant Ressel continues to be consistent, as he is ranked No. 12 in the country, converting on nine of 10 field goals this season.

    Missouri's punt defense has played well, allowing only 3.7 yards per punt return (No. 17 in the country). This is huge for MU's defensive unit. Preventing long returns keeps opposing teams from having a short field and getting that quick, easy score.

    Senior Punter Matt Grabner is ranked No. 34 in the country, averaging 43.10 yards per punt.

    Negatives:

    MU ranks No. 114 in kick return yards and No. 65 in punt return yards, only averaging 7.75 yard per punt return. The Tigers haven't found a replacement for Jeremy Maclin and need to find someone who can break the game open in the return game.

    The Tigers kick-return defense needs to stiffen up as well. MU is ranked No. 76 in the country, allowing 22.16 yards per return.

     

     

    Midseason Grade: B-

Coaching Staff

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Positives:

    Head Coach Gary Pinkel has finally put a stop to the off-field problems that plagued Mizzou's offseason.

    Pinkel also gets positive marks for the way he handled the Derrick Washington situation. Always one to keep things in-house, Pinkel made his decision and stuck with it.

    On the field, Pinkel has been more animated than in years past. This is something that many Tiger fans wanting to see for some time.

    Pinkel has done a great job promoting from within. Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has done an amazing job with his defense this season. Losing his best defensive player (Aldon Smith) hasn't slowed down or hampered Steckel's defense at all.

    Offensive coordinator David Yost gets high marks as well, but his offense will need to open things up if the Tigers are going to make a run at the Big 12 Title this year.

    Negatives:

    All the off-field trouble. Having both players and a coach get charged with DUI's is not what Missouri fans expect to see from a Gary Pinkel-coached team. Hopefully these issues have all been worked out internally, and we won't see any further arrests this season.

    Offensive coordinator Yost did have some positives, but he also gets in the negative column for not developing Blaine Gabbert better in the offseason. Something's just not right with Gabbert this season. He appears nervous in the pocket and losses his accuracy at times during games.

    It might not be Yost's fault, but something needs to happen, and Yost was MU's quarterback coach prior to his promotion to offensive coordinator.

    Gabbert has all the tools and talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but whether he is still jumpy from last season's ankle injury or he isn't seeing the field properly, something is definitely a little off this year.

    With all that being said, the Tigers are undefeated and ranked in the top 25 ...

    So kudos to the coaching staff on a job well done so far in 2010.

     

    Midseason Grade: B+

Fans

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    Positives:

    Missouri fans are great! Tailgating in Columbia is a sight to see. Tiger tails hanging from car trunks, kids dressed up as Truman the Tiger and of course, The Zou itself.

    Memorial Stadium has had many renovations over the years and remains one of the Big 12's top stadiums.

    Negatives:

    Missouri isn't called the Show-Me State for nothing. Despite a 3-0 string of wins and a spot in the Coaches' Poll, Missouri game attendance has dropped notably compared to last season.

    The Tigers opened the 2010 home season against McNeese State on Sept. 11, bringing in 55,582 attendants. The 2009 season opener against Bowling Green racked up nearly 10,000 more fans, topping out at 65,401.

    Athletics Department spokesman Chad Moller beleives it's a combination of things: the horrible economy, the lack of "big name" opponents so far and the fact that Missouri took a step back last year after winning the Big 12 North title in 2008.

    Moller does remain optimistic, believing that when the big name opponents come to Memorial Stadium so will the crowds.

    This is a difficult one to judge. If I wasn't covering the Big 12, would I be able to afford taking my family to each home game? If it really is the money, then who am I to say anything, but if it's because the Tigers only won eight games last year, well that's a different story.

    If you are truly a fan of the Tigers, it shouldn't matter what happened last season. Go have fun and cheer your team on.

    Since Coach Pinkel arrived in Columbia, the Tigers have been competitive. I realize that Pinkel hasn't beaten Oklahoma or Texas, but he sure stopped the one-way beatings and early blowouts.

    Mizzou is a fun team to watch, and hopefully fans will begin to show their appreciation for the players and coaching staff by attending home games this season.

    Missouri does have lower ticket options at: www.mutigers.com

    Midseason Grade: C+

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