“I’ve never experienced anything like this before.” That’s what Head Coach Gary Pinkel said to describe the Missouri football team’s third quarter struggles. The Tigers have managed just 30 points in the third quarter in the first nine games, including just 14 in Big 12 play. Those points came against Iowa State. Pinkel and the coaching staff has tried simulating third quarter game situations in practice, they tried talking to the players about it, they’ve tried downplaying the struggle, but nothing has worked.
When I talked with wide receiver T.J. Moe on Monday, he said trying to trot back onto the field after sitting can be tough for any team. He admits while it is not a problem for every team, it isn’t easy to ramp back up.
The Tigers do have trouble sustaining momentum or intensity or focus and it appears to be a hangover from the second quarter.
Mizzou has gotten off to quick starts, outscoring opponents 90-51, but there seems to be a letdown heading into the second quarter that carries over into the third. Opponents have outscored the Tigers 120-98 in the middle quarters.
The Tigers best quarter, in terms of scoring, is the fourth. That’s a red flag when I see 119 of 314 points scored at the end. That tells me it’s a team that shifts into desperation mode as evident in last Saturday’s game at Baylor when the Tigers scored 25 points. I wouldn’t be concerned if the fourth quarter numbers were low and Mizzou was winning. That would tell me, they’re chewing up the clock, protecting a lead, perhaps conservatively adding points. I did some research and my theory seems to carry some weight.
If you look at the recent success of the Tigers starting from last season and going back to 2004, Mizzou scored over 100 points in each of the first three quarters and just 68 in the fourth last year. In 2009 it was the same results with the fourth quarter being the lowest scoring output. In fact, going all the way back to 2005, the fourth quarter was their lowest scoring quarter in all but one year. Meanwhile the second and third quarter scores were typically the highest.
The last time the Tigers scored low in the third quarter was all the way back in 2004 when Mizzou went 5-6 and scored just 42 points (the last losing season).
Rarely will fast starts or strong finishes lead to consistent winning. The teams that can move the ball and control play going into and coming out of the half are the teams that have more success.