I cannot tell you how much I dislike Gary Pinkel. I’m trying to figure out what it is about the coach, who is the University of Missouri’s greatest football coach and probably will remain in that capacity for the next decade.
I believe that the difference between “pretty good” and “great” can come down to attention to detail. Pinky as I call him doesn’t have that attention to detail. It cascades to the players.
The key plays last night that led an undertalented Vanderbilt team to steal a road SEC win show this lack of attention to detail. Vanderbilt scored points before the team had registered a first down when Pinky played it conservative and senior punter Trey Barrow fumbled the snap in the end zone, giving Vandy a safety. The reason that Vandy had Missouri in such a precarious position was because redshirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser fumbled a snap on a rare non-shotgun play from scrimmage.
Vandy earned its first TD of the night in part to a stupid penalty. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson attempted to block a punt. In college, the preferred punt formation is what looks like a swinging gate. Three players line up about five yards in front of the punter and create and old-fashioned wedge. Richardson came up to one of the wedgers and jumped to block the punt. The wedger blocked Richardson low and a late penalty flag came out. There’s a new rule that does not allow a blocker to try to jump over one of the wedgers. Vandy got the first down and Missouri’s defense faltered for the first time all evening. Vandy never relinquished the lead.
The Missouri offense came alive in the final minute, but Pinky’s Andy Reid-like skills with timeouts cost the team. Missouri had a fourth and one at Vandy’s 40-yard line with about a minute to go. The offense was in hurry-up and Berkstresser finally figured out how to throw the ball to his receivers. Pinky stopped the offense and ran the clock down to about 12 seconds. If Missouri ran a quick play and failed, Vandy would have the ball at least 30 yards from field goal range with a minute to go. Instead the play call was a deep throw that was knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
The same thing happened on the last desperation drive. Thanks in part to a fumbled extra point snap, Missouri trailed by four instead of three as the clock went down. Missouri had a great drive and made it to the Vandy 24-yard line. A first down run failed. A time out on second down completely stalled the offense and Berkstresser threw three straight passes into the end zone, near no Missouri receivers as Vandy sent in blitz after blitz. There was no attempt to throw a short pass or try a draw to counteract the blitzes. In this situation, I don’t necessarily blame the coach. It was the little mistakes earlier in the game that got the team to that point. And with the clock ticking, mistakes are made. It’s human nature.
Next week Missouri hosts number one Alabama. That’s a team that pays attention to detail and is very talented. Maybe if the team adjusts, figures out that this just isn’t James Franklin’s year and give Corbin Berkstresser the full week of practice, they can keep it close like the Georgia game. Judging from the post-game locker-room yelling, I think not.