|Missouri's fast pace hurt in last year's Sun Bowl|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008 01:36|
``We want to control the tempo of the game,'' offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said.
It's a philosophy that has helped the seventh-ranked Tigers average 40 points, seventh-best in the country, heading into Tuesday's Cotton Bowl against No. 25 Arkansas. Only five schools produced more yards per game than Missouri's 493 per game and the Tigers were the only team to score 30 or more points in every regular-season game.
This frenzied production is by far the biggest reason the Tigers (11-2) have tied the school record for victories and are preparing for their first New Year's Day bowl game since 1970. All the stars, quarterback Chase Daniel, all-purpose threat Jeremy Maclin, twin tight end terrors Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman and running back Tony Temple, are on offense.
Daniel has taken 638 snaps in 13 games, one of numerous school single-season records.
``We should be overshadowed,'' nose tackle Lorenzo Williams said. ``Those guys are amazing. We always get in trouble for not sitting our chairs, but when they get the ball we want to see what they're going to do with it.''
It can be argued that the Tigers can sometimes go too fast for their own good. Last year's Sun Bowl is a case in point.
A 14-point cushion with 12 minutes to go evaporated in a last-minute 1-point loss to Oregon State. Missouri scored in rapid-fire fashion at times, with four touchdown drives lasting 42 seconds, 2:12, 31 seconds and 58 seconds, but didn't use enough time on the unsuccessful possessions - five lasting 2:06 or shorter - for all of that production to hold up.
Missouri had some of the same issues this season without getting burned. Both Christensen and head coach Gary Pinkel believe when there's a problem it's only because the offense didn't execute.
``What we did is we didn't keep the ball,'' Pinkel said, recalling the 39-38 Sun Bowl loss. ``That's the best clock management you can get. If you don't give the ball back, you don't have any problems.''
A handful of games appeared needlessly thrilling this season, however.
Missouri almost coughed up a 37-13 third-quarter cushion in the opener against Illinois, clinching a nail-biting 40-34 win on Pig Brown's interception at the 1 in the final minute. The Tigers led 28-7 near the end of the third quarter against Kansas, then hung on for an 8-point win and their first Big 12 North title.
M away 40-26.
``It's definitely hard to slow down,'' Daniel said. ``You go in expecting to be a fast-paced offense. We score at a fast pace and we're not going to change that.''
Yet coaches and players both felt the Tigers made progress this season in allowing the clock to be their ally. While Kansas was catching up, Missouri had drives of 10 and 12 plays, both ending in field goals.
``I think that's something we did well this year,'' Rucker said. ``When we needed to grind out the clock, we did that.
``That was another step we needed to get to where we are now.''
Recalling the Sun Bowl meltdown, Christensen bemoaned a missed block that cost a first down and a missed defensive holding call on a pass play.
``You can run the ball every snap,'' Christensen said. ``But if you get stuffed you're not going to control the clock.''