Blakley gets involved in Missouriís offense

By JOE WALLJASPER of the Tribuneís staff

Story ran on Sunday, September 30 2001

Dwayne Blakley is a senior, which means that for about four years now Missouri fans have been complaining that the athletic 6-foot-4 tight end isnít getting the ball enough.

Yesterday, at long last, they were satisfied. Blakley was the focal point of Missouriís offensive gameplan. After catching just one ball in Missouriís first two games, he led the Tigers with six catches for 47 yards in MUís 36-3 loss to Nebraska.

Mark Schiefelbein photo
Missouri tight end Dwayne Blakley goes airborne over Nebraska defenders Jamie Burrow (48) and Erwin Swiney at the end of a 16-yard reception in the first quarter.
Against a team that is inpenetrable against the run, Missouri used a ball-control passing attack with short passes over the middle and in the flats, and then took shots down the field on fade routes to Blakley and 6-4 wide receiver Justin Gage.

"Theyíre so difficult to run the ball against," MU coach Gary Pinkel said. "You face reality in your gameplan. We felt we had to do some things in the short-passing game to get the same kind of yards you would in your running game. It worked early, but our execution dropped off in the second half."

For most of the game Blakley got single coverage from Sam linebacker Scott Shanle.

"Itís no secret that Nebraska plays a lot of man-to-man with only one safety back there," Blakley said. "So if anybody could beat the man in front of them, that was the issue."

On Missouriís first drive, Kirk Farmer hit Blakley twice across the middle and just missed a connection on a deep ball. Same deal on Missouriís second drive, which resulted in a field goal - Blakley caught two passes but couldnít come up with the long one. Both misses would have required acrobatic grabs because Shanle had good coverage.

"We just felt we had to get him involved in the gameplan more," Pinkel said. "We tried to get him deep a couple times. That was the most disappointing thing Ė him and Gage had a chance to make some big plays down the field. Boy, could we have used a few of those."

To highlight the difference between the teams, Nebraska wideout Wilson Thomas made one of those tough catches at the end of the first half for a 37-yard gain that set up a touchdown.

"I played all right, but I didnít play good enough, obviously, because we didnít win," Blakley said. "There were a few times where I could have made a play that would have changed the outcome of things."

From the second quarter on, Nebraska wised up to Missouriís plan and shut down the Tigers. When it became obvious MU had to pass, the Cornhuskers started getting better pressure, forcing Farmer to throw more quickly.

"I think this defense responded once we got the hang of their scheme and what they were trying to do," Shanle said. "They were going with all that underneath stuff and those quick little routes to get away from our pressure and try to use the passing game like the running game. We didnít really adjust our scheme, but when you get the sense of what theyíre trying to do to you, it makes it a lot easier to defend it."