Mistake aside, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert solidifies top-shelf status

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TEMPE, Ariz. – Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert may have solidified first-round draft status at the detriment of Iowa’s defense.

Save for one mistake, Gabbert had a career day against the Hawkeyes in a 27-24 loss Tuesday night at the Insight Bowl. He completed 41 of 57 passes for 434 yards – all Missouri bowl records. But it was the pass that got away that nagged at him after the game.

In the fourth quarter and holding a 24-20 lead, Gabbert drove the Tigers to the Iowa 29. He then tossed weakly toward the left sideline, and Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde stepped in front of receiver West Kemp and picked off the pass. Hyde then criss-crossed the field and sprinted to a 72-yard touchdown that capped Iowa’s victory.

Gabbert said he should have thrown the ball away instead of forcing it toward Kemp.

 “I just got greedy,” Gabbert said. “It was a scramble drill, and I thought Wes was was going to release and go on the sideline because they were in man-to-man coverage. He stayed with them, and (Hyde) made a great play. And that’s really all I can say about that.”

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said Gabbert took responsibility for the play but said the quarterback made several other plays that put the team in position to win.

“There are a lot of plays you can go back and change and it would change the outcome of the game,” Pinkel said. “And in close games, it’s always going to be like that.

“So you look at that one, but I thought he played remarkably well.”

Gabbert threw for 284 yards by halftime against Iowa. He guided his team to a pair of third-quarter touchdown drives to reverse a 10-point deficit into a four-point lead.

Iowa’s defenders were equally impressed Gabbert’s running ability as his passing statistics.

“He’s got a great arm and he’s pretty fast,” Iowa defensive tackle Karl Klug said. “He’s deceivingly fast. If you get close to him, he’ll just run away from you. We did the best we could to get some pressure on him.”

Iowa did pressure Gabbert, sacking him twice for 16 yards. But he ran for a 7-yard touchdown on a third-quarter draw play and evaded Iowa’s rush multiple times.

“He’s a tremendous player,” Iowa linebacker Jeff Tarpinian said. “He’s very good at what he does. He’s a good runner, too. He’s able to sneak.”

Gabbert, a junior, was one of the Big 12’s most prolific quarterbacks, throwing for 2,752 yards and 15 scores this year. His large frame (6-foot-5) has many considering him as a possible top 10 NFL draft pick, should he decide to leave school early. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projects Gabbert as the second-best quarterback available should he leave school early.

Gabbert has yet to declare his intentions.

“Everything is going to be evaluated after the season,” Gabbert said. “Like we always cover for the past month, I have told you guys, of course, a few people filed their name in the committee. It goes from there.”

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