Missouri looks to shake off early rust

Bothered by slow starts, Gary Pinkel changes his practice schedule.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:26 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

Gary Pinkel has no problem waking up. Most nights he doesn’t make it past 3 a.m. before he wakes up. His offense, though, has made a habit of sleeping in.

Missouri has had few problems winning its past two games, but a lack of early game offense has given Pinkel some tense moments.

Pinkel said he is concerned about every detail of the program and the team’s slow starts are no exception.

“It is important to get that going,” Pinkel said. “It might not be magic this game, I don’t know, but we’ve got to get to the point where we start much faster. Not only this game, but as the season goes on.”

The Tigers (3-0) have scored 14 points in their three first quarters. Both first quarter touchdowns came after Missouri received a wake-up call from the opponent.

Against Ball State, Missouri didn’t move the ball well until after the Cardinals blocked a Brock Harvey punt and scored two plays later to go up 7-0.

The season opener against Illinois was, perhaps, the epitome of Missouri’s first-quarter struggles. MU scored in the first quarter against the Illini after linebacker Derrick Ming dropped punter Matt Minnes at the 4.

It took the Tigers three tries before tailback Zack Abron took a pitch from quarterback Brad Smith into the end zone. Missouri gained 20 yards on 10 plays in the first quarter against Illinois and failed to pick up a first down.

Eastern Illinois held the Tigers scoreless Saturday in the first quarter and MU gained two first downs. Opponents have outgained Missouri 212-201 and picked up 13 first downs to the Tigers’ 10.

Wide receiver Darius Outlaw said the Tigers offense might need outside help to start better.

“You could say we need an alarm clock,” Outlaw said. “We just need a jump-start. We just need to get going, and I know that might sound easy, but we get in a game-type situation then everything changes from week to week.”

Pinkel said Missouri would change a few things in the preparation for Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee State to try to jump-start his offense. Pinkel said he always is concerned about every detail of the team and will do everything in his power to correct the slow start problem.

“I don’t just sit there and say, ‘Well, I hope this thing works out,”’ Pinkel said. “I guarantee I don’t do that. We aren’t going to adjust pregame with what we do there. I think what we’ll do is we’ll try to make a couple of adjustments in practice.”

When Pinkel arrived at Missouri, he emphasized what he calls “team plays.” Team plays are plays where the offense runs out of two huddles, one huddle runs the play and the other huddles as it normally would and watches the play develop.

At the end of practice, in what the staff calls “fourth quarter time,” the Tigers work on eight- to 10-play drives and try to execute the drives as they would in a game. Pinkel said the coaching staff moved the fourth quarter time to the beginning of practice starting Tuesday.

Smith said the Tigers will find the formula for first quarter success sooner rather than later.

“It’s just a matter of needing to go out and start the game with a better rhythm,” Smith said. “We just have to execute a little better right from the beginning. Right now, it’s just some small things like that. We’ll be fine.”

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