GD: First off, I wanted to test the theory of whether they’re taking more deep shots than they did last year. Below are the passing charts for Connor Bazelak from 2020 (realizing he played eight and a half games) and the chart for the first two games of 2021.
GD: In 2020, Bazelak threw the ball more than 20 yards downfield 50 times, or an average of about six per game. So far in 2021, he’s thrown it that distance 13 times, an average of 6.5 per game.
When you add in throws of ten or more yards past the line of scrimmage (more intermediate than downfield), he attempted 119 passes last season (14 per game) and 27 so far this year (13.5 per game).
So to begin with, thus far this season, they’ve taken “downfield shots” at almost exactly the same rate they did last year. And the truth is, that makes sense, because so far this year, Bazelak’s receiving corps is pretty much the same guys as it was a year ago. Dominic Lovett and Mookie Cooper are the only two players who have been targeted this season who were not on the roster last year. Each has been a target of one pass beyond 20 yards and one between 10 and 20 yards.
Thus far, it’s basically the same passing game as it was last year, they’re just throwing the ball a little more often. Bazelak’s average line through two games is 27-for-41, 275.5 yards and three touchdowns. Last year, his per-game averages were 27-for-38 for 275 yards. The one difference is he’s throwing four times as many touchdown passes per game so far this season. That’s it. Other than that, it’s the same passing game.
Now, as for why they haven’t hit on a lot of downfield passes, I’d put it on two things before I’d put it on Bazelak. First, they don’t really have a consistent take the top off receiver. I think Lovett and Boo Smith are the two that have the best chance to turn into that, but Smith has played only six snaps and Lovett is two games into his career. Second, I don’t think they have the offensive line to take consistent downfield shots. They ran multiple flea-flickers last season. The first half of the Kentucky game looked to me like they were calling plays to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as quickly as possible. I don’t know that they believe they have the line to give Bazelak time to consistently drop back and let receivers get 30 or 40 yards downfield.
It’s early and things can evolve, but the first two games indicate that Missouri’s passing production this year might not look a whole lot different than it did last year. But if Bazelak continues the trend of having four times as many touchdown passes, it will be a far more effective passing game, even if the raw numbers don’t change.
GD: I can’t tell you the last time I’ve eaten at an Applebee’s. I’m generally against eating at chain restaurants anyway. Why would I want to eat somewhere that I can eat in any city in the country rather than going somewhere local? Not only are you helping out local economies and small business owners, but the food is usually better. Eating at chains doesn’t make sense to me unless you’re just picking up something quick on the go.