As Star reporter Tod Palmerwrote in Thursday’s Star
, a pivotal difference between No. 5 Missouri’s play this season (7-0) and last (5-7) has been the remarkable health of an offensive line that was ravaged by injuries in 2012.
“The continuity of playing together, there’s nothing like it,” Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said Monday. “That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have any mistakes, but certainly the consistency at that position helps a lot.”
Here’s a glimpse at a case in point from Mizzou’s 36-17 win over Florida last week, as told by right guard Connor McGovern after he’d reflected on it with center Evan Boehm.
“It was just one play, in the heat of the moment, but a good example of how you can kind of sense (where a line-mate is) and how it can kind of help you,” said McGovern, a sophomore from Fargo, N.D.
A split-second into the running play called for Henry Josey, McGovern recognized that Boehm had turned the wrong way.
“I took my first two steps, and at practice, every time I know where he is,” McGovern said. “So, not even looking, I knew he wasn’t there for some reason. Weird stuff like that, a sixth sense or whatever it is.
“So I kind of turned back around and gave the guy a nudge, and Henry ran around it, and we got the play off.”
That wasn’t a particularly big gain, McGovern said.
But it was a play salvaged, and an indication of how it’s from the small things that the big things come for an offense that is eighth in the nation in scoring (44.3 points a game) and 11th in total offense (513.4 yards a game).
It starts with consistency and cohesion on the offensive line, which more often than not is in sync but also can avert trouble when it’s not.
“You have to know what each guy’s doing on each play,” McGovern said, adding, “You can kind of sense who’s in trouble, or not in the right spot. It helps a lot.”
Maybe all the more so with redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk in the lineup since senior James Franklin was injured at Georgia and for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t know if you can bring us together (as a line) any tighter,” McGovern said. “But you have that thought in the back of your head all practice and all game, ‘I just really want to get that extra block,’ just so you can make sure he gets that throw off. Because maybe at first his reads aren’t as fast” as they will be.
On Mauk’s first play in place of Franklin, a third and 6 at Georgia, McGovern said, “We all kind of grabbed him by his jersey and just said, ‘Follow us, we’ll get you there.’”
The play was a designed keeper for Mauk.
“I happened to be pulling on that first play, and I remember grabbing him (and saying), ‘Just follow me to the first down,’” McGovern said.
And so Mauk did, paving the way to a crucial touchdown in MU’s 41-26 win paved by MU’s healthy line.