Mizzou football: Grading Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak after loss to Alabama
The Missouri Tigers got the Eli Drinkwitz era started with a loss against No. 2 Alabama. No one was surprised by the result, and the game wasn’t really as close as the 38-19 final score made it seem.
However, this was always going to be a game where it was more important for the Tigers to install their offense in a live-action situation against an actual opponent. And, since it was the first game with Drinkwitz calling plays and the first game with QBs Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak getting work, there were some positives to take away.
Moving forward, it appears Robinson — who started — will continue to be QB1 at Mizzou. But Bazelak also did some nice things in his 2 drives, including running for a touchdown on the game’s final play.
So, how did each quarterback grade out? Here’s a breakdown for Robinson and Bazelak after Week 1 against the elite Crimson Tide defense:
Rewatching the game, I thought Robinson looked incredible as a passer. He was able to adjust his arm angle as needed, stood tall in the face of pressure, extended plays with his legs and showed off his cannon of a right arm.
Here was his first touchdown throw. The tweet describes it as an “absolute dime.” I wouldn’t go anywhere near calling it that, but when the receiver is that wide open, you just need to get it to him, and Robinson accomplished that:
— Parker Rehm (@parker_rehm) September 27, 2020
As I mentioned about standing tall and adjusting his arm angle as needed, take a look at these 2 plays. No fear in Robinson’s game:
Another one: pic.twitter.com/vo7qhzOMal
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) September 28, 2020
I counted 3 passes from Robinson that Mizzou receivers dropped. That’s a killer. Also, this was the first time this offensive line unit has worked together. So, with those 2 caveats in place, I’m actually quite high on Robinson’s stock moving forward.
I didn’t like the work Robinson did with his legs, as he finished with 8 carries for -35 yards. Yeah, a lot of those negative yards came via sacks, but it still wasn’t a great day for the dual-threat quarterback.
The reason he’s not graded lower, though, is that I wasn’t a fan of Drinkwitz’s play calling with regards to Robinson’s running ability. The Tigers kept trying to run slow-developing option plays. That’s, uh … that’s not a great idea against a team with Dylan Moses at linebacker and speed all over the field.
I mean, what’s Robinson supposed to do on a play that has no chance like this one:
Not sure why Mizzou kept running plays like this against Alabama’s defense: pic.twitter.com/tuCKpMjGID
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) September 28, 2020
Obviously, it would have been nice if he could have protected the ball a bit better, but that play was doomed from the second it was called. It might work against teams with less speed and athleticism on defense, but not against Alabama.
On a night where Larry Rountree III actually had some success between the tackles, it was weird to see the Tigers trying to run outside for much of the first half.
Moving forward, I actually would like to see fewer designed runs for Robinson. I think he’s at his best when he extends pass plays with his legs. Give him a couple of designed keepers per game, but otherwise, give him a chance to use his athleticism while also having a pass option.
I mentioned how Robinson had 3 passes dropped. Well, I also counted 3 passes from Bazelak that could have been caught but weren’t. One would have been a nice play by the receiver, but it’s a play that has to be made if you’re going to have any minuscule chance of upsetting Alabama.
In the 4th quarter, though, he showed some nice chemistry with Dominic Gicinto, connecting with the junior receiver twice on crossing routes that went for a combined 31 yards. We’ll have to see more from him to get a full picture of his development as a passer this offseason, but for now, it was a fine performance.
There was a 3rd-and-9 play in the 2nd quarter when Bazelak should have tucked the ball and run. Instead, he tossed it up to the receiver on the sideline and the Alabama defender knocked away the 50/50 ball.
However, he atoned for that mistake on his touchdown drive on the final possession of the game. He had a 9-yard run early in the drive and then scored on the final play of the game with this nice 7-yard scamper:
That’s exactly what you want a quarterback to do — feel the pressure, step up in the pocket, recognize the middle of the field is open and take off. Great instincts there for a guy who isn’t seen as a natural runner.
This should be Robinson’s show moving forward. Drinkwitz needs to eliminate the east-to-west runs that may have worked in the Sun Belt but won’t work against SEC speed. Otherwise, Robinson showed he has the talent to run this offense.
Saturday’s game against Tennessee will be another tough one, but the Vols aren’t nearly on the same level as Alabama. With 1 game under his belt, Robinson should improve on Saturday, too.
He showed some nice chemistry with Jalen Knox and Damon Hazelton, so I’m excited to see how that develops. The 38-19 loss could have been worse. I see some good things coming in this offense’s future.