Despite injury, Gabbert expects to spur offense for MU football team

Friday, October 23, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:14 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 24, 2009
Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert runs out of the pocket while trying to find an open receiver.

COLUMBIA — Two losses to open Big 12 Conference play have meant tougher questions for Missouri sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

His five interceptions in those games have killed drives and led to speculation that perhaps Gabbert, who suffered a sprained right ankle Oct. 8 against Nebraska, isn't as healthy as he lets on.

Gabbert dismisses those opinions.

"People can think all they want," he said. "They really have no idea what's going on. I'm fine. I'm good to go."

Tigers fans hope that is true because the likelihood of a victory over No. 3 Texas, Missouri's opponent Saturday night in Columbia, seems next to nothing without increased offensive production.

Senior wide receiver Danario Alexander, by far Missouri's most productive player in last Saturday's loss at Oklahoma State, said Gabbert is frustrated, but not rattled.

"We just need him to be himself," he said. "He can lead us to victories. We just got to have everything around him to be right. He's a great athlete. He can do it all for us."

Alexander said the entire offense is responsible for turnovers in the past two games.

"Just miscues, you know, we're not just doing everything right as an offense," he said. "Certain things go wrong, or whatever, like the route's not where it needs to be or anything. We've just got to clean up everything, and we'll be a great offense."

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he would not allow Gabbert on the field if playing could worsen the right-ankle sprain.

"Last week, my biggest concern was that he would go backwards," he said. "And then you've got to make a decision. Is this going to be chronic? I don't want that. And they (the medical staff) felt comfortable … that he would not go backwards, and he hasn't. Hopefully he'll be 100 percent this week."

Pinkel also said he had concerns about playing backup quarterback Jimmy Costello instead of Gabbert, especially if Gabbert's condition does not regress.

"He (Costello) got some work with the ones (first team) last week," Pinkel said. "We prepare for that a little bit. He looked as good as any backup we've had here. But you know, game-ready, playing-ready, he hasn't played. He's played very little."

Since Gabbert is right-handed, he pushes off his right leg to make a throw. Offensive coordinator Dave Yost said this can indirectly affect Gabbert's passing technique.

"I don't know if the foot causes it as much as understanding what the differences is when you're throwing," Yost said. "With an injury or a pain in your foot, you don't have maybe as much push off of it, or whatever the case may be."

He said quarterbacks adjusting to a minor injury sometimes make mistakes adjusting to it.

"(The quarterback decides he) might throw this ball a little higher, might have to bring this down a little bit more," Yost said. "And I think you can see that. His accuracy definitely wasn't what it normally is. He threw the ball well last week in practice, had to kind of get used to a difference. We expect him to be accurate, but he wasn't as accurate as he wants to be or ... we want him to be. But that will be something we continue to work on."

Before conference play, Gabbert did not throw an interception. Since then, all five have come in the second half of games.

"I really didn't know that until you just said that," Gabbert said Monday. "We're trying to make plays. I guess I'm forcing the ball a little bit too much."

Alexander said the offense is working to become more consistent.

"We can't come out one half, one team and another half, another team," he said. We've got to come out both halves and play our best game."

Gabbert said he doesn't think the injury has affected him, or that defenses have figured out how to beat Missouri late in those Big 12 games.

"It's just I've got to take care of the football," Gabbert said. "We've played good defenses all year. They haven't really gotten any better. They've been solid all year long. It just really comes down to me taking care of the football. All the receivers ran great routes, and I've just got to get them the football more."

The sense of urgency isn't lost on Missouri's starter.

"We shouldn't have a drop-off at my position," Gabbert said. "I guess I expect more of myself. We're six games into the season now. We're not really young anymore."

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Mike LaHue October 28, 2009 | 8:10 a.m.


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