COLUMBIA — For two weeks before Missouri’s 38-28 win over Kansas State, the Tigers’ offense appeared to lack its usual flare.
Junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert only managed to throw the ball for 95 yards against Texas Tech, the nation’s second worst passing defense at the time. Against Tech and Nebraska combined, Missouri was eight for 31 on third-down conversions.
Last week, head coach Gary Pinkel and offensive coordinator Dave Yost spiced up Missouri’s playbook with some new looks. It wasn’t necessarily the innovation that led to the Tigers’ success, but players said the new plays had them excited.
“I think we showed some innovation, some willingness to try new things,” sophomore wide receiver T.J. Moe said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been afraid of that, I just think a lot of times we had been successful doing what we were doing, so there’s no reason to just throw a whole bunch of stuff in that might not work.”
Missouri debuted a pistol offensive formation on Saturday. It’s similar to the shotgun formation, but the quarterback lines up closer to the center, and the tailback lines up directly behind him. The formation combines the shotgun with a tradition I-formation and was trademarked by Nevada.
“I liked it,” senior center Tim Barnes said. “I thought it was a way we could exploit the Kansas State defense. It just comes down to executing up front, and I thought we did a good job with that.”
Gabbert said he also felt comfortable running the offense out of the new formation.
“It’s just another way to get the running back down hill,” Gabbert said. “It helps the offensive lineman in the run game blocking wise.”
Another twist to the offense was that freshman quarterback James Franklin came in on two separate occasions. Missouri looked to take advantage of his running ability.
“We really want to utilize him more in some special situations,” Pinkel said. “I think that’s a good alternative for us, some things that he can do.”
Moe also had the opportunity to briefly assume some of the quarterback role when he threw a pass deep down the field on a trick play.
“It was fun,” Moe said. “Not may people getting the opportunity to do that. It was exciting; it was fun. I just kind of threw it away. They played it pretty well.”
Moe, who played quarterback in high school, threw the pass incomplete, but all the new plays created an excited atmosphere at practice throughout the week.
“I’m always excited to come in on Tuesday mornings,” Moe said. “We have a meeting at 7 o’clock. There’s a big paper that has 30 plays on it. I go quickly and see what plays are for me. During the week you’re excited to learn and run it as best as you can during the week, so we can run it during the game.”
After two poor offensive performances, Moe said he and his teammates felt like the new plays provided a spark.
“I think last week we might as well; we got nothing to lose,” Moe said. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and we go back to what we’re doing. It’s fun for us. We got to spread the ball around a little bit.”
But still, despite his players’ excitement, Pinkel said the spiced up offense wasn’t the sole reason for victory.
“You try things if you’ve had some struggles,” Pinkel said. “I would suggest that those were OK, but the reason we played better was because we blocked better, we threw the ball better, we made better decisions, we were a more focused football team.”