The second half of Missouri’s 52-42 win over Illinois left a bad taste in players’ and fans’ mouths. I understand how an “improved” defense giving up its most points in a game since a 2005 spanking at home against New Mexico would worry folks. Last year the defense gave up 24 or more points in 9 of 14 games. There were dominant performances sprinkled in, like the 41-6 drubbing of Nebraska and the shutting down Arkansas in last year’s Cotton Bowl. Last year’s Missouri offense scored 558 points, or just shy of 40 a game. No other Missouri team had scored more than 399. There are going to be games in which the Tigers are winning big and other teams are going to pile on the garbage points. At the same time, the offense isn’t into clock-eating drives. Scoring tends to happen quickly, especially with a no-huddle offense.
Championship teams have big players who make the big plays in the big games. Tell me how many times you’ve heard a variation of that statement by an overpaid, oblivious announcer. Sean Witherspoon was the big player for Missouri. When his interception of Mike Vick clone “Juice” Williams to stall a drive wasn’t enough, he pried the ball out of running back Daniel Dufrene’s hands and brought it back for a game-sealing interception. The Tigers had a ton of success on blitzes in the first half. In the second, Illinois adjusted and feasted on single coverage to the outside. Missouri might not face a better receiving corps until the Big 12 Championship game.
It’s time for Missouri’s annual take it easy September. Nevada and Buffalo might be bowl teams, but nearly everyone’s a bowl team now. The game at Nebraska will be next big challenge. Other than Texas and Kansas, Missouri faces zero top-25 teams the rest of the year.
Before the game, I was concerned that the offense would miss Martin Rucker, Will Franklin, and Danario Alexander. Jared Perry and Tommy Saunders stepped up, although there were some drops. The only freshman to make a catch was tight end Andrew Jones. With Jeremy Maclin possibly missing some games, expect the freshmen to be more involved. Derrick Washington was great, although to be fair he had giant holes and Illinois tackled very poorly.
It’s sad that both college QBs looked more accurate than Vince Young in his final preseason game. I liked that Young drove the Titans into scoring position four times. I didn’t like the poor red zone production. Going into the opener, we really don’t know what to expect from the offense. Kicker Rob Bironas hasn’t played in a game since the Pro Bowl. The D looks solid, but the depth is questionnable.
To wrap things up, my college fantasy team had an excellent opening week. With Arian Foster playing tonight for Tennessee, I should exceed 200 points. My team has almost no depth at QB and RB. I need to address that in free agency.