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P.S.R. Op-Ed

Yeah, Missouri’s That Good

Photo by Andrew John Williams/The Columbia Missourian

Forget the question mark. Missouri is as good as some believed, as good as fans hoped, good enough to become more than just a passing fad, an undefeated team feasting on inferior opposition. You could have used that excuse prior to Saturday, when Missouri was still a relative unknown. Not anymore, not after the Tigers manhandled a leading national title contender with the help of a ground-chewing offense, the best defense in recent program history and the best home crowd yet seen in the 2010 season. That same home crowd might be tearing down Columbia, Mo., but they’ve earned it.

Game balls abound, befitting the happy results. There’s the Faurot Field crowd: loud, intense and involved for 60 minutes. Fans with ticket stubs to last night’s game should eat — and drink — for free until school resumes Monday morning. Compare last night’s crowd with the scene at Lincoln the previous Saturday, when Nebraska hosted Texas in a similarly meaningful game, and we have a clear winner: Missouri.

Then there’s the offense. Before getting too far, however, it is important to point out that Oklahoma’s defense is not what most — including myself — thought it would be. The defensive line sorely misses Gerald McCoy, as expected. The front four was largely unable to get pressure on Blaine Gabbert, though this is also due to Missouri’s quick-hitting pass game: Gabbert, well-versed in this system, was delivering the ball on time and with accuracy.

Gabbert had his 2009 season slightly derailed by an early-season ankle injury, which hampered his play for much of Big 12 play. Now healthy, by and large, he’s beginning to show the talent that made him such a well-regarded recruit. He’s developed a rapport with both Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson, with the latter setting new career-bests in receptions (9) and receiving yards (139) in the win.

The most amazing statistic from last night? That the Missouri offense, despite huddling so infrequently, throughly dominated the time of possession: the Tigers held onto the ball for 38:26, thanks to near perfect play both through the air and on the ground. Speaking of the running game, wasn’t Missouri supposed to struggle without Derrick Washington, the would-be starter no longer on the team?

The defense also deserves credit in this regard. Not just for the three forced turnovers, but for how it bottled up DeMarco Murray, effectively ending his Heisman campaign; Murray ended the night with less than 50 yards rushing, though he did tie for the team lead with eight receptions. The defense forced Landry Jones to win the game: he couldn’t.

Perhaps the Tigers don’t have the nation’s second-best defense — it entered the game second nationally in scoring. They do have a top 10 defense, it seems, with more speed and better technique than any Missouri defense I’ve ever seen. For all the success of the offense, the defense was the big story last night: if you can man up against Oklahoma’s passing attack, you can stop anybody. You taking notes, Nebraska?

Finally, let’s acknowledge the always-underrated coaching of Gary Pinkel. Perhaps it’s because he’s been at Missouri as long as he had — a decade now, believe it or not. Pinkel doesn’t receive the national acclaim he deserves, even if he’s brought a program lacking in historical pride through three different incarnations of success: teams led by Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert.

This team looks like his best: yes, better than the Daniel-led 2007 team that was jobbed out of a B.C.S. berth. That team, if you remember correctly, couldn’t hang with Oklahoma — not by a long shot. Neither could the 2008 Tigers. The 2010 Tigers, on the other hand, can do more than just run with the Sooners: they can run them off the field, out of the stadium, back to Oklahoma with their tail between their legs.

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  1. Noefli says:

    That was fun to watch.

  2. d.c. says:

    Loved the article—the last sentence needs some work though.

  3. Zaboo says:

    And they’ll lose to Nebraska next week.

  4. schedule nit says:

    Seven games into the season and they’ve played one road game and one game against a ranked opponent. Not in the same game. Even Auburn, which plays 8 home games this season, has played two games on the road. Before yesterday, I’d thought Mizzu was a figment of Oklahoma’s imagination conjured up purely as a paper tiger to give the Sooners a ‘quality’ win midseason.

    So, Missouri is really good after all. What a delightful thing to find out two months into a season. That whole conference seems more like professional wrestling than anything.

  5. Rick says:

    The Missouri fad will end after the trip to Lincoln.

  6. Jack says:

    Missouri was the best team I’ve seen so far this season. They have an excellent chance to go undefeated.

    People on here seem to think they’ll lose to Nebraska next week, but if my memory serves me correctly – The tigers have beaten Nebraska so soundly lately, that they shouldn’t be scared of Nebraska at all.

    We’re hearing people say that this Mizzou team is better than the 07 team, who was better than the 08 team… and those teams destroyed Nebraska. Coach Pelini had to apologize to the entire state after the Tigers beat them in 08, in Lincoln, by 5 touchdowns.

    I’ll go with recent history and Pinkel’s coaching ability. I don’t trust Pelini, who’s record at home in October is embarrassingly horrendous. He’s a good coach, but this team fumbles, drops passes, misses tackles, and commits a lot of penalties. They can get away with that stuff against most teams… but not Missouri.

    This is the best team they’ve played all season… and the Huskers will have to bring their best game of the season to the field, if they are to bat this Tiger bunch.

  7. Scott says:

    Even though you mentioned it, Mizzou’s defense the real story here. The offense has a great line, a NFL QB, and a lot of talent at the other skill positions (as it has been the case for years). The defense has finally stepped up and this is the best Mizzou D in years (if not decades). A ton of credit should go to Dave Steckel, Mizzou’s defense coordinator. This is year 2 under Steckel and he is leading this defense like few before him have. And again, the talent on this Mizzou team is getting closer and closer to the likes of Texas, OU, etc. Pinkel deserves all the credit for building this program to where it is- without a doubt, a truely great coach.

    Also, as a Mizzou grad, the calls that Mizzou is the best team in the nation are overdone. Mizzou is turning into a great team, but the game in Lincoln this Saturday will either make or break this season. Win and we probably win the Big 12 North and play in the Championship game to go to a BCS Bowl (which is the goal). Lose, and we probably don’t win the Big 12 North and our chances to play in a BCS bowl go down.

    Go Mizzou!

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