The Morning After STL

Yahl: The Good, The Bad for Missouri Midway Through the Season

Nick Yahl, Tue, 20 Oct 2015 05:00:00 GMT

Week by week it seems as though the Missouri Tigers continue to move in the wrong direction. The bar was set exceptionally high this season, probably almost too high. After winning back-to-back SEC east titles, anything less than a division championship seems like a disappointment.

The Good

While the offense certainly has had its struggles scoring points, there are still positive takeaways to look at. Whether it is Corey Fatony as one of the best young punters in the game or Cam Hilton’s pleasant surprise in transitioning to wide receiver, there is plenty to be happy about with this Tigers team moving forward into this week’s contest against Vanderbilt and throughout the rest of the regular season.

Corey Fatony “ Fatony has certainly gotten a workout so far this season for the Tigers. Through seven games the true freshman has 45 punts amounting to just shy of 2,000 yards (1,982). His average punt distance checks in at 43.5 yards.

Seven games into the season, aside from the stellar play of the Missouri defense Fatony has stood out as one of the crucial players to this Tiger team. Time after time Fatony’s ability to flip the field has given the Tigers a chance to win ball games, the offense just hasn’t been as cooperative.

Like Christian Brinser last season, Fatony has shown he’s a force to be reckon with and is often an afterthought when it comes to this teams success. Watch out for this kid because last weeks Ray Guy award, given to the nations top punter of the week, won’t be his last.

Cam Hilton “ Converted from safety to wide receiver we weren’t quite sure what Hilton was going to bring to the table in terms of production. The wide out class, an alreadycrowded bunch, didn’t appear to need any more players.

However Hilton created a spot for himself amongst the fray and has started to make an impact on the field. Nate Brown and J’Mon Moore are the starters without a doubt, but Hilton has worked himself in to the mix amongst Emanuel Hall and DeSean Blair.

He hasn’t had a breakout game yet, but that’s in part to the struggles of the offensive line and a young quarterback. Last time out Hilton caught a pair of passes for 35 yards, his longest a 29-yard connection from his roommate; Drew Lock.

That’s right. Lock and Hilton are roommates. Talk about chemistry.

Though Hilton is also making his presence known in the return game. After Aarion Penton couldn’t get the motor rolling earlier in the season Gary Pinkel let Hilton have a shot at returning punts.

He might’ve muffed the punt in the Georgia game, but he did have an explosive punt return earlier in the season against South Carolina, which was negated by a block in the back. The kid certainly has speed an explosion that could eventually have him returning kicks over John Gibson too.

The Bad

The offensive line was anything but effective this past week against Georgia. In a game Missouri should have won, the offensive line failed to contribute in any positive way. Twice the Tigers found themselves in first and goal situations to which would’ve extended their lead. Yet they came up empty both times and ended both drives with a field goal.

That is inexcusable. You can certainly put some of the blame on Lock for not executing the offense, but the fact is he is young and is still learning. The kid has started three games and is barely five months off his senior prom.

The running game is not existent. Missouri rushed for 21 yards on 22 carries over the course of the entire game. Connor McGovern and Nate Crawford got manhandled at the tackle positions. Mitch Hall and Brad McNulty couldn’t push a pillow any better than they did Saturday night against Georgia.

It’s a very different picture than it was a year ago on the Missouri line and the Tigers don’t have many options to turn to. If I’m Pinkel or Lock, the only person I have faith in on that offensive line is senior center and captain Evan Boehm.

For a functional offense to operate you have to have all facets working in unison. For the Tigers offense there is a lot of work that needs to be done, but those adjustments needed to be made three weeks ago. So the only hope moving forward is to get better with each passing week and fine-tune those mistakes.

Pinkel commented on the offensive struggles during his weekly press conference Monday.

“Honestly, you’ve got the offensive line, you’ve got the running backs, you’ve got the receivers and all their responsibilities, you’ve got the quarterback, and you’ve got the coaches. Everybody’s got to do better. Everybody’s got to improve, and that’s what we’ll work on,” Pinkel said.

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Up next the Tigers travel to Vanderbilt to take on the Commodores in what should be a low scoring affair. The Commodores are averaging less than 13 points per game in conference play and Missouri hasn’t scored a touchdown since the third quarter against South Carolina three weeks ago.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Notes: Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the NCAA in total tackles with 91, 19 more than Michael Mudoh of Tulsa.

Missouri has no major injuries worth reporting as Sean Culkin is officially active this week against Vanderbilt.

For more Missouri Tigers news and notes follow @NickYahl on Twitter.