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October 17, 2013

Dominating the perimeter



Sasser-to-Washington stole the headlines in Missouri's win over Georgia on Saturday. Yet even after the game, Gary Pinkel made sure to give credit to what set up that play.

Namely, two key blocks by receivers Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt.

Because of Lucas and Hunt holding their blocks, Bud Sasser had four full seconds to throw the ensuing 40-yard touchdown pass to L'Damian Washington, a score that pushed the momentum back to the Tigers and led to the eventual 41-26 scoreline.

Quarterbacks would be jealous to have that kind of time in the pocket to throw. It's the most clear example of one big improvement in Missouri's offense for 2013.



Those big receivers, the ones that are supposed to make highlight-reel catches down the field? They're pretty good at blocking, too.

The easy narrative would be new receivers coach Pat Washington brought this sense of urgency and importance in blocking to Missouri. It's kind of true, but not necessarily for who Washington is. Instead, it's the fact that he was a new coach.

"Just having a new coach and knowing that your spot could be gone at any day, just having to work on every little bitty thing that receivers have to do," Sasser said. "Especially in a spread offense, we have to be able to block in the perimeter to get our running backs loose. We have three really good running backs, so that's what we worked on."

Sasser said the receivers "emphasized blocking" throughout spring, summer and into August camp. When asked about receivers into the blocking game, Washington said it isn't always easy to get those players to take pride in it.

"Hell no," Washington said, with a smile.

For his receivers in Columbia, that hasn't been the case

"I think they bought into it," Washington said.It wasn't a hard sell. I think they all want to win, and they understand the value of it. That's the most important thing.

"You have to be unselfish, number one. And, really, the leaders, the starters, if those guys do it, then other guys will do it, as well. The people that are out there playing have got to buy into it. They got to feel that it's important to win a game, blocking that is, and if they buy into it, everyone else will buy into it."

On that play that swung the Georgia game, that unselfishness is clear. It was a four-star senior (Lucas) and four-star redshirt junior (Hunt) blocking for a three-star receiver (Sasser) and allowing a two-star redshirt senior (L'Damian Washington) to streak down the field for the reception.

"I've been around groups that you have to force feed them, pretty much, to get it done," Pat Washingotn said. "But these guys have bought into it."

This comes after a game where Missouri's receivers felt they could have blocked better. Sasser, Washington and Pinkel himself said as much. Missouri had its lowest rushing total of the year (142 yards), although the Tigers lost 31 yards on sacks.

But it also shows how important blocking is to Missouri's receivers. Going forward with a back-up quarterback -- and especially against one of the top defenses in the nation in Florida -- Missouri's receivers are looking to make an impact in blocking for the run game.

"They're fearless, that's the biggest thing," running back Henry Josey said.

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