Offensive execution must improve if Missouri hopes to take down Tennessee

Drinkwitz stressed that “self-inflicted errors must be corrected.”
Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses chases Missouri QB Shawn Robinson in the Tigers' season-opening loss on Sept. 26, 2020. SEC Media Portal

When Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz went back to watch his team in action after its 38-19 loss to Alabama, he wasn’t exactly pleased.

“It’s critical that we improve in all three phases,” Drinkwitz said. “All three phases had significant errors that prevented us from having the opportunity to win the game. In order to win a championship, we must first not beat ourselves.”

Specifically, Drinkwitz identified offensive execution as one of the main issues from Saturday’s loss. He identified third downs as an area in which they did well, converting eight of 16 attempts, but that was about it.

“The negative was too many major negative plays,” Drinkwitz said. “We had a fumble. We had at least three sacks, two of them for extremely lost yardage. We weren’t able to consistently establish the run game. We were behind the chains. At least three drops, maybe four, on balls that hit us right in the chest. You know, things that get you beat, again, those are self-inflicted issues that we gotta get corrected.”

Quarterback Shawn Robinson, who got the start after a competition with redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak, agreed with his coach. Robinson completed 76% of his passes for a respectable 7.4 yards per attempt, but he held the ball too long in spots that cost the Tigers critical yards.

“It comes down to the little details,” Robinson said. “It comes down to just doing the little things right. If you don’t do the little things right, that’s when it gets you beat.”

Drinkwitz stressed that statistics weren’t his first concern when evaluating quarterback play. And it will be a constant evaluation, because Bazelak saw time on Saturday and will continue to get occasional reps as the Tigers determine who their best quarterback is.

“They were consistent at getting our football team into the end zone,” Drinkwitz said. “And that’s really the number one criteria for being the quarterback. It’s not about stats. It’s about ‘do you lead your team to scoring drives.’”

To be fair to the Tigers, they installed a completely new offense in a limited number of fall practices, and they had been open about execution being an ongoing problem throughout fall camp. They also played the first game of that new offense against Alabama, a defense that has NFL prospects across the board.

For example, on a fourth-and-two play early in the game, Drinkwitz called a speed option with Robinson and running back Larry Rountree III. The read defender attacked Robinson right away, and he made the correct decision to pitch it to Rountree. But when he did, star linebacker Dylan Moses — who saw the play the entire way — was waiting for him two yards in the backfield.

Drinkwitz may have been frustrated that the blockers didn’t take a better angle and couldn’t cut Moses off, and if they did, Rountree had an easy first down and maybe a whole lot more. However, Moses read it too fast and was so quick that cutting him off looked almost impossible for Missouri’s line.

“I think I did alright, but we obviously didn’t win, so it wasn’t enough,” Rountree said. “Obviously, when you take away after the game, I just need to do more with every carry I get, and in the low red [zone], I need to score, basically.”

This could be a good week for the Tigers to showcase an improved passing attack, as Tennessee may be missing its starting nickel back, Shawn Shamburger. Its starter in his place is a true freshman, and he and the rest of the Volunteer defense allowed 27 points to an underdog South Carolina team.

Robinson will look to distribute the ball to his playmakers.

“[It’s] just getting easy throws, just getting our guys in space and letting them do what they do best with the ball in their hands,” Robinson said. “It’s what we like to do.”

Edited by Maia Bond | mbond@themaneater.com

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