The Missouri Tigers and certainly head coach Gary Pinkel are not going to make excuses for the team’s 0-2 start in Big 12 play. They knew when the schedule first came out that the Big 12 portion of the schedule was front loaded with nationally ranked teams in Nebraska, Tech, and now this week against Texas.
Pinkel, on Monday at his weekly press conference, said he doesn’t wish, look back, or hope that the schedule would have been different Pinkel on the Big 12 schedule. So, here they are. The Texas Longhorns, third in the BCS standings and packed with plenty of returning talent starting with their quarterback Colt McCoy. The senior, who Pinkel said it felt like he’s been there forever, has completed 70% of his passes this year for 1,537 yards with 11 touchdowns. McCoy’s go to guy is Jordan Shipley. Another guy, who Pinkel joked “what, has he been there eight years?” that is so important to the Longhorns offense. Shipley has pulled in 51 catches for 605 yards and three scores. Pinkel on McCoy and Shipley
The reality of Texas’ story though is despite the fact they are number one in scoring with 42 points per game, most of their offensive stats are in the middle of the pack in the nation. The Longhorns are built on defense this year. They are #1 in rushing, allowing less than 36 yards per game. 6th in total defense, 7th in interceptions, and 8th in the nation in fumble recoveries.
This does not bode well for Missouri. The Tigers have stressed over and over this season that they need to be able to run the football, but the Tigers are 91st in the country. While the Tigers cannot abandon the run entirely against Texas, it appears more and more responsibility is going to fall on the shoulders of Blaine Gabbert. Will he be able to the handle the pressure?
If you are trying to hang your hat on the belief the Tigers could pull of this upset, here are two key you can use to back your story. The first thing they need to do is create some turnovers. Texas can get sloppy with the football and at times have gotten off to slow starts. They’ve had close first halves against Wyoming, Texas Tech, Colorado, and Oklahoma before eventually winning. Missouri has come up with just eight turnovers in the first six games. I believe the Tiger defense will hold their own against Texas and not get walked all over like they did last year, but they must stop field goals or long drives with at least two turnovers. Don’t expect a repeat performance of last season when Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said they didn’t even get off the plane in Austin. Spoon on Texas
Second, the offense can’t shoot themselves in the foot. This is the biggest “if” in the game. The Tigers are still learning, still drilling in practice, constantly working on better techniques, it just hasn’t come yet. If the Tigers could find the team that played Illinois in terms of offense efficiency, they’ll be able to hang around. Kick some field goals, don’t go backwards, protect the football, don’t break on defense. You get into the second half close and you’ve got a ball game.
The stark reality of this Saturday is this won’t happen. Texas has too many weapons and Mizzou still has quite a bit to learn and improve upon. I doubt on national TV, the Longhorns are going to overlook the Tigers after their Red River win over OU and at trip to Oklahoma State next week, but if there was a trap game…this would be it. However, what this game does for Missouri is set them up for the rest of their schedule. After this tough patch, it’s at Colorado, home with Baylor, at Kansas State, then home with Iowa State, before Kansas. The Tigers could head into the KU game 4-3 in the Big 12, 8-3 overall and shot at a nine win season and 5-3 in the north which given the way things have played out the first couple of weeks, could be enough to win it. At the very least, get the Tigers into a decent bowl game. So, when you hear Gary Pinkel say he’s not all doom and gloom and there is a lot to play for with half the season to go, you understand where he is coming from.