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December 3, 2008
Tiger offense will have to start fast
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In the first quarter, the Missouri Tigers have been very good this season. The Tigers have outscored opponents by 70 points in the opening frame and jumped to a lot of early leads. But in their three losses, the Tigers have failed to score on their opening drive and fallen in an immediate hole. Oklahoma State scored the first touchdown in Columbia, Texas had 35 before the Tigers got on the board and Kansas shut Missouri's offense down on its first three drives while grabbing a 10-0 lead.
Never has a fast start been as important to the Tiger offense as it will be this weekend.
"It sets the tempo of the game, kind of gets the momentum on your side," Jeremy Maclin said.
That momentum has been a major factor in Oklahoma's run to the Big 12 Championship game. The Sooners have outscored opponents 215-30 in the first quarter this season. The rest of the way, opponents have come closer to matching the Sooners, being outscored 425-268. But by that time, most teams have been in such a big hole, it hasn't mattered. Only Texas was able to come back from an early deficit to do so much as challenge Oklahoma into the fourth quarter, much less win.
"There's no question that's going to be very important," offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said. "We can't get in a huge deficit. We've got to come out and start quick and execute and protect the football."
Turnovers have been the bugaboo for the Missouri team in those losses. Chase Daniel threw first half interceptions against Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas. All contributed to the Tigers falling into a hole they could not overcome in the end.
"He's responsible for the football," Gary Pinkel said. "He knows that."
"I had three turnovers," Daniel said after the Kansas game. "Our team didn't have three turnovers. That's on me."
If they can weather the opening storm, the Tigers will still have to prove they can mount a consistent attack against the Sooners. In three games over the last two years, only once has Missouri scored more than 17 points. They got to 31 in Norman a year ago, though seven came in the final seconds. Still, Missouri sees some things it may be able to take advantage of.
"They're fast, athletic, but at the same time, a lot of those defenses like that have a tendency to be overeager, make big plays all the time and lose track of what the big picture is," Maclin said. "Which is why we kind of want to use some things we've seen other teams do and try to expose them a little bit."
Easier said than done.
"They're very similar to the group we saw last year," Christensen said. "They don't get out of position much. They're solid. They're always solid."
Still, the Tiger offense is averaging 45 points per game in its own right. The Tigers will shrink from no challenge on that side of the ball.
"We know we can play with them. There's no doubt about that," Colin Brown said. "Everybody was in Norman, everybody was in San Antonio. It's just a matter of us playing how we play."
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