September 13, 2007

Conference capsule: Taking responsibility

Gary Pinkel survived one of his longer Big 12 coaches' teleconferences Monday. In a span of 12 minutes, the seventh-year Missouri coach was asked about his team's second-half struggles in four different ways. And three different times he replied, "I'm responsible for that." So far, the Tigers have survived their scares. But the projected North champions already face stern questions entering their third game of the season.

It wasn't too incredibly long ago -- Oct. 7, in fact -- when The Associated Press typed a believable lead sentence, "Missouri's defense is for real" after the nation's 10th-ranked defense helped the Tigers to a 38-21 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.

But since then, opponents have outscored Missouri during the second half in seven of the last nine games. All five instances in 2006 resulted in a loss, including a 39-38 defeat to Oregon State in the Sun Bowl.

Missouri escaped Illinois, 40-34, and held on for a 38-25 win at Mississippi, but will enter its home opener against winless Western Michigan on Saturday as one of the most curious 2-0 teams in the nation.

Consider the Tigers have been outscored an astounding 51-10 in the last 20 minutes during each of their last three games dating to the Sun Bowl and it becomes evident why back-to-back career performances by Chase Daniel (359 yards passing and three TDs against Illinois followed by a career-high 396 total yards and five TD passes against Ole Miss) have unfortunately become a mere sidebar to the bigger story in Columbia.

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