Missouri The Machine

Tigers offense rolling unlike any other heading into showdown with Sooners

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Oct. 12, 2007

By Adam Caparell




Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
E-mail here!

If you've seen one you've seen them all, right?


Well, not exactly. Chances are you haven't seen a spread offense quite like the one Missouri is marching onto the field every Saturday.


Featuring one of the most balanced units in the country, the No. 11 Tigers have attained their highest ranking since 1981 thanks to quarterback Chase Daniel, some talented tight ends and dizzying array of plays, schemes and formations that makes up Missouri's own variation of the spread offense.




And right now, it's running like a well-oiled machine.   


Averaging over 550 yards and 41 points per game, Missouri is flying high in the Big 12 North heading into its matchup with No. 6 Oklahoma Saturday in what very well could be a preview of the conference championship game this December.


From the no-huddle to direct snaps to anyone but Daniel to a multitude of other gadget plays, Missouri does it all and does it well. They score in the blink of an eye, they have almost double the amount of touchdowns as their opponents, and they convert an astonishing 59 percent of their third down chances.  


Offense is the name of the game in Columbia these days and the Tigers are mixing it up better than anyone. They like their options, and if variety is the spice of life, then offensive coordinator Dave Christensen is cooking up some appetizing game plans.  


"Our offense is so multiple because we do so many things," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "Dave and the offensive staff make sure we use the entire offense throughout the entire game, and we don't get stuck on any one area, or not go in a particular area. We, as you all know, do a lot of different things, and we want to make sure that we get those things that we had game-planned called."


Missouri used to script at least 15 or 20 plays per game, but they've cut back and are actually letting the players, led by Daniel, have a lot more input into the game plan.  


"Chase will come off the field and say, `Hey, let's try this,'" Pinkel said. "All the receivers, too, because they know the answers. They know if the defense is taking something away. So the communication is there, and I just think the players really like this offense."


How can they not when they're putting up such big numbers? Christensen's palate of plays may look like they belong in some backyard rather than the Big 12, but the mismatches in space it creates has Missouri off to its second straight 5-0 start.


"He's on quite a roll, double reverse passes, reverses, it's unbelievable," Daniel said. "We're not just running the same dull plays over and over again and it also gives them more to think about. It's good stuff."


Oklahoma will have its hands full trying to contain the mobile Daniel who, at 6-foot, is one of the smallest starting quarterbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A). But defying conventional wisdom, the vertically challenged Daniel is the second leading passer in the Big 12 and second in total offense. He's dangerous on his feet and can burn you just as easily running the ball as throwing it.


"It's going to be a challenge," Sooners defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "They're a Big 12 team and undefeated. Last year, they had a great offense and this year they're even better. [Daniel] likes to move around so we're going to have to contain him."


Oklahoma actually did a pretty good job of that last year when the Sooners forced Daniel into throwing three interceptions in their 26-10 win over the Tigers in Columbia. The Sooners didn't let Daniel get comfortable in the pocket and forced him to throw on the run.


And there's no reason to think Oklahoma won't be able to do the same this time around. They're one of the best defensive units in the Big 12 and have the kind of athletes to stick with the Tigers, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops knows it's not going to be easy.


"They are excellent. They spread the field and space you," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. "They have really talented guys across the board and aren't afraid to give the ball to any of them. You just have to be disciplined with your space and make sure that they don't get too much of it. We are going to have to change up our coverages."


And while Missouri may have one of the more unique offenses in the Big 12, if not the country, it's not like the Sooners are going up against something they haven't seen before. It seems like just about every team in the country employs some form of the spread nowadays and Oklahoma has faced its fair share.


"We're fairly used to playing in space," Stoops said.


And Missouri is fairly used to having its way scoring touchdowns. So unless the Sooners defense can contain the Missouri offense unlike anyone else this season, Saturday figures to be an offensive shootout. Remember, Oklahoma is averaging 49 points per game.


And in all actuality, Missouri would probably prefer a high-scoring game, anyway. The Tigers would love to keep their defense off the field for as long as possible. The more points they score, the quieter the Norman crowd will be, and of course, the Tigers will be doing what they do best: moving the football.   


"Our players really like this offense because everybody has their part getting their signal from the sideline," Pinkel said. "As we get more experience from the offense, not only the staff will get better at what we do in design and what we do for an answer standpoint, but the players will as well."


That is a scary thought for their Big 12 North brethren and the rest of the conference. Missouri's already a machine and Oklahoma hopes it can throw a wrench into it this weekend.