COLUMBIA- When the Missouri football team hosts Buffalo on Saturday at Memorial Stadium the focus will be how the Tigers can fine-tune in their last test before Big 12 Conference play opens on Oct. 4 at Nebraska.
The scores of the Tigers' first threewins (a combined 173-62) don't suggest many problems, but coach Gary Pinkel said he has noticed things to correct even on scoring plays.
"It's kind of interesting," Pinkel said. "Almost every single play that you have out there, there are little coaching points that even though the play worked, there might be three or four things that players could have done better. We don't just say, ‘This is great, we scored'. There are things to learn on every play."
But in the past two games, the only lesson the Tigers appear to be learning is how not to humiliate an opponent, with quarterback Chase Daniel going as far as to joke that Pinkel has been teaching his team how not to score. Despite pulling its starters, Missouri still scored 69 points on Nevada, which staggered Pinkel.
"I just don't want to humiliate an opponent, I just don't want to do that," he said. "But you've also got to get some work in. I didn't want to score when we kicked the field goal (to go ahead 62-17) and I also didn't want to get a first down."
Pinkel was told that Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick called Missouri's fake field goal touchdown "a slap in the face", but Pinkel dismissed the criticism.
"Anyone who knows me knows I don't do that," Pinkel said.
Pinkel said a situation where he is asking his players not to score probably won't happen again in his career, but given his team's firepower and his reluctance to score too many points, that seems like a modest prediction.
For now, Buffalo becomes the latest defense to try to slow down Missouri's offense and prevent Pinkel from having to do it himself.
"They do a lot of different things," Daniel said. "(They) almost do as much as Nevada did, (I was) impressed by how well-coached they are. We've got to go in there and over prepare."
WOLFERT CLOSES IN: Kicker Jeff Wolfert was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking nine extra points and two field goals against Nevada. Wolfert has made 91 consecutive kicks, and is 21 points away from passing Brad Smith as Missouri's all-time scoring leader.
Not bad for a guy who was 1-for-2 on extra points in high school.
"I found that out a few days before he kicked his first game (here)," Pinkel said. "That was interesting. I thought he was absolutely crazy (giving up his diving scholarship). He's certainly nice to have."
DEFENSIVE QUESTIONS: A year ago, the Missouri defense remained a question mark as the Tigers headed into conference play, having surrendered an average of 25 points per game. This season, it averages just less than 21 points a game and the defense has shut out its past two opponents for one half each, despite Nevada ranking 14th nationally in offense.
"Overall, we shut them out in the second half and played the fourth quarter with backups," Pinkel said. "They (Nevada) average a lot of yards a game and we held them to 350. But we've got to get better. You can't give up big plays like we did and be a good defensive football team."
The Tigers' defense is ranked 90th nationally and last in the Big 12.
CLEAN AND BRUISE-FREE: Daniel hasn't spent a lot of time dealing with opposing defensive linemen, and given the work that he sees his offensive line put in, he's not at all surprised.
"I didn't get touched at all (in practice) in 11-on-11 with our defense," Daniel said. "Our defensive line didn't touch me at all. I'm wearing the green (jersey), but they didn't even get a sack on me by touching me. They (the MU offensive linemen) worked tremendously hard on the chemistry aspect."
The chemistry has formed quickly.
"We're all really close," center Tim Barnes said. "We'll give each other crap and stuff like that, but we just like being around each other."
Barnes added that keeping Daniel off his back is a point of pride for the line, and Daniel said he has noticed the results.
"I'm going out of the game on Saturday, and on Sunday, I'm feeling fresh," Daniel said. "I'm relaxed, loose and not having any bruises on me. That's in direct correlation to our offensive line."
CONFIDENT CHASE: Daniel was among the many impressed with top-ranked USC's 35-3 thrashing of then-No. 5 Ohio State last weekend. But he wasn't impressed enough to say the Trojans are better than his Tigers.
"Am I going to say two, three or four?" Daniel asked rhetorically when asked where he would put Missouri if he had a vote. "That's a loaded question. Of course I'm going to say one. With what USC did to Ohio State, obviously they're going to get all the points in the world. But if I had a vote today, I'd put us No. 1."