Defeat magnifies Tigers’ weaknesses

Two weeks remain before Missouri’s showdown with the Cornhuskers.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:48 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

After a blowout loss to Kansas on Saturday, it became apparent that making any kind of accurate predictions about the Missouri football team is nearly impossible. The only safe bet is that the Tigers won’t lose this week.

They won’t lose because they don’t play. MU (4-1) has a bye before an Oct. 11 matchup with undefeated Nebraska at Memorial Stadium. The Big 12 Conference announced Monday that the game will start at 6 p.m. and be televised on TBS. The additional week of preparation might have come at the perfect time for MU.

Kansas dominated the Tigers in every facet on its way to a 35-14 victory. Quarterback Brad Smith had the worst game of his career, passing for 62 yards and gaining 33 yards on 17 carries. The Missouri offense finished with a season-low 196 yards.

MU’s inability to make big plays and throw the ball downfield against Kansas was nothing new. Missouri has had few gains longer than 20 yards and the running game has consistently been more dangerous than the passing attack.

The Tigers’ longest passing play of the season was a 34-yard completion to Marcus James against Eastern Illinois. Missouri is No. 100 in the nation in yards passing per game with 163. Last season, the Tigers averaged 203.2 passing yards. MU has 10 returning starters this season, leaving MU coach Gary Pinkel surprised at his offense’s lack of production.

Pinkel said his play calling might be the root of the Tigers’ problems

“When things aren’t going well and you get a lot of third-and-10s and you’re struggling and struggling, we have a tendency to get a little too conservative maybe,” Pinkel said. “Again, that all starts with me. That is something we are doing a little too much of.”

Smith hasn’t thrown an interception, one bright spot, but the lack of a downfield passing game is part of the reason for Smith’s lack of turnovers, Pinkel said.

“I think we can throw the ball downfield more,” Pinkel said. “I think you have to look at myself. We have to get the ball downfield more, and that’s more call-wise. I think last year he might have been (too cautious), but I don’t think he’s afraid to make mistakes.”

Missouri defense continues to struggle

The offense isn’t the only problem the Tigers need to fix during the bye week. Missouri’s defensive struggles continued against the Jayhawks.

Kansas had 318 yards, including 207 rushing and five rushing touchdowns. The Jayhawks were 9-for-15 on third down conversions, including 4-for-5 in the first quarter. Missouri’s defense has allowed 335.4 yards and 40 third-down conversions.

MU linebacker James Kinney said the defense has to improve in third-and-long situations.

“We have to execute,” Kinney said. “We want them in third and long.”

With the arrival of the bye week, Pinkel said the Tigers would change up the plan before getting back to work. Missouri did not have its customary Sunday evening practice and will run some today before getting back to normal practices Wednesday.

Receiver Darius Outlaw said the Tigers have a lot of work to do this week.

“It’s a bye week; every one in the country has got to have one,” Outlaw said. “We have just got to go out there this week and get better.”

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