Blaine Gabbert moved Missouri’s offense with ease and the Tigers’ defense left Jerrod Johnson and Texas A&M’s high-powered offense stunned.
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It was the perfect combination to keep No. 21 Missouri undefeated with a 30-9 win over the struggling Aggies on Saturday.
Gabbert threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with Wes Kemp for touchdowns in the first and third quarters to help the Tigers (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) improve to 6-0 for the fifth time in school history.
”I don’t know how many superstars we have, but we have a lot of good players, I guarantee you that,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ”When we play well as a football team we’re pretty good.”
Missouri’s defense held quarterback Johnson and Texas A&M’s spread offense in check for most of the game, harassing him into a 7 for 21 first half and sacking him seven times overall.
Texas A&M (3-3, 0-2) finally got going in the fourth quarter, with Johnson throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Fuller, but it was much too late to avoid a third straight loss.
It was the fewest points the Aggies scored this season and a performance Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman called shocking.
”It was obvious we didn’t play or coach very well today,” Sherman said. ”We didn’t make the plays we needed to make. We never could get into a rhythm offensively.”
Gabbert’s third touchdown pass was a 20-yard strike to T.J. Moe that made it 30-3 in the third quarter. Moe finished with six receptions for 110 yards.
The Tigers got the ball in the second half after Johnson was sacked three times on Texas A&M’s first possession after halftime. Gabbert hit Kemp for his second touchdown on a 10-yard pass that pushed Missouri’s lead to 23-0.
Gabbert suffered a hip pointer in the fourth quarter of last week’s game and spent the week trying to get healthy.
”I worked hard all week to get my body back to what it should be,” he said. ”It’s mind over matter. When you’re focused on a specific goal nothing else matters. We were focused on the ‘W’ and we got that.”
Texas A&M had first-and-goal from the 10 after that, but the offense stalled again and the Aggies kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 23-3. That score ended a streak of six straight shutout quarters for Missouri’s defense after a 26-0 win over Colorado last week.
It was the first time since 1967 that Missouri had held conference opponents scoreless for six straight quarters.
Johnson finished 27 of 48 for 322 yards, but was just 15 of 31 for 141 yards entering the fourth quarter.
Texas A&M didn’t turn the ball over this week after losing the ball nine times in the last two games to up its season total to 18, but the offense sputtered anyway.
Still, Sherman insists he hasn’t considered replacing Johnson with backup Ryan Tannehill.
”If I thought the problems were Jerrod’s problems, then maybe I would,” Sherman said. ”But when he’s running around for his life and not getting protection he wants and people are dropping balls it’s hard to put that on him. We should take out everybody, including myself. We just didn’t function well on offense at any position that I can recall. We could have fired everybody today.”
The Aggies punted on their first six possessions as Johnson struggled through tough first half. Texas A&M finally got a drive going on its last possession of the first half. But it stalled at the Missouri 43 after three straight incompletions from Johnson, including one on fourth down where he badly overthrew his receiver.
That gave Missouri the ball back with about 1 1/2 minutes before halftime. The Tigers marched down the field and looked to have scored on a reception by Kemp, but the TD was taken away after a review giving them the ball at the 1. Texas A&M’s defense held and Missouri settled for a 21-yard field goal and a 16-0 halftime lead.
Pinkel likes the focus of his team and is impressed by its development.
”We are a lot better football team now than we were three weeks ago, and we’re getting better,” he said. ”Hopefully we continue to do that.”
Kendial Lawrence pushed Missouri’s lead to 13-0 when he scored from two yards out early in the second quarter. That score was set up by a 24-yard reception by Kemp.
Gabbert found Kemp on a 5-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, but the extra point attempt was blocked so the Tigers led 6-0. It was the first time Missouri had an extra point attempt blocked since 2005.
Texas A&M left guard Evan Eike was injured early in the third quarter and carted off the field with a sprained ankle. It was unclear which ankle was injured.