Any fans left in the stadium after the Tigers put up 42 points against Southeast Missouri State got a first look at MU’s reserve quarterbacks, who are likely to see more playing time, especially during Missouri’s nonconference schedule.
Starter Chase Daniel called it a night with four minutes left in the first half. Coaches shuffled between senior Chase Patton and top freshman recruit Blaine Gabbert for the rest of the game. Gabbert’s appearance in the third quarter dispelled any speculation he might redshirt this year.
Coach Gary Pinkel said he thought giving Gabbert game experience would be better for the young quarterback and the team. He reminded reporters that he played Daniel in his first game as a freshman.
“We said from Day 1 we were going to let him (Gabbert) compete,” Pinkel said. “I try to do what is right for the program.”
The High School All-American from Parkway West joined Missouri as one of the top prospects in the country. Gabbert earned MVP honors in the Elite 11 quarterback camp last summer and made a surprise switch in commitments from Nebraska to Missouri in November.
In Saturday night’s game, Gabbert completed three of eight passes for 27 yards, though the freshman had more handoffs than passes.
“I think he did fine,” Pinkel said. “He’d never been in the arena before.”
Pinkel would not comment on specifics of the quarterbacks’ performances, saying strengths and weaknesses are discussed personally with the players.
“Both did some good things and both have things they need to improve on,” Pinkel said.
Gabbert’s least successful moment of the night was being sacked for a loss of 10 yards. The highlight was a 30-yard run that came within 16 yards of the end zone. The play was one of few that roused the remaining Missouri fans at Memorial Stadium in the last quarter.
Gabbert admitted he felt uneasy at first about his college debut.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous,” Gabbert said. “But once you get out there, everything flows.”
Daniel, who had a record half, said he was pleased with how the second and third string performed.
“I think they did some good things,” Daniel said. “It’s about moving the offense and putting the offense in the position to score.”
Patton, completed seven-of-eight passes for 64 yards. The quarterback who took snaps in 10 games last season had a handoff to Jimmy Jackson for a score — Missouri’s last of the night.
“It felt good to get hit again,” Patton said. “Obviously there are still things to focus on, but I think we executed the offense.”
Patton, a Columbia native and Rock Bridge High School graduate, said he understood the decision to give Gabbert playing time. “Obviously you want to be the guy, but overall it’s good for the team,” Patton said. Pinkel said Saturday’s quarterback scheme would be a theme for the rest of the year. “It won’t change next week either,” he said. “We’ll let them compete and we’ll go from there.”