If Sean Coffey, a Missouri wide receiver, felt pressure going into Saturday’s game against Arkansas State, he hid it well.
After a disappointing 2003 season in which the Tigers finished 102nd in the country with 166 passing yards per game, Coffey led an aerial attack Saturday that kept pace with Missouri’s rushing offense. The Tigers passed for 243 yards and ran for 263.
“We looked pretty sharp,” Coffey said. “Hard work in the offseason paid off today. You know, we got to show it today. We were going against our defense for a long time and we got to show it against another opponent and we looked real sharp tonight.”
Coffey, a junior, had the best day of his college career with five receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Brad Smith connected with Coffey as he cut across the field at Arkansas State’s 15-yard line unguarded for a 60-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Indians blitzed on the right side, allowing Smith to roll and find the wide-open Coffey.
“You just got to focus on that ball,” Coffey said. “Those are the easiest ones to drop right there.”
The touchdown was Coffey’s longest reception at Missouri, surpassing his previous best of 36 yards.
All of Coffey’s receptions came in a first half in which Smith went to Coffey for all but 50 of his 163 passing yards. In addition to the touchdown, Coffey had a crucial 19-yard catch from a scrambling Smith on third-and-seven play that continued Missouri’s first scoring drive.
“(Smith) is a great runner and a lot of guys come up when he starts moving around in the pocket and we just got to come back and find holes and make plays,” Coffey said.
Coffey started every game last season and was Missouri’s third best receiver behind Thomson Omboga and Darius Outlaw, catching 27 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown.
Missouri’s offense ran a majority of passing plays in preseason scrimmages in an attempt to build chemistry and improve on last year’s performance. Coffey said it was important for the offense to prove early in the season that it can be an effective passing unit.
“I heard a lot about the passing game numbers dropping, you know, since (NFL wide receiver Justin Gage) left,” Coffey said. “We all wanted to let everybody know that we can do it and everybody’s out there working hard every day and it’s making us better.”
Coach Gary Pinkel said he was pleased with the parity in the passing attack, and several receivers got involved, including freshman William Franklin and tight end Victor Sesay, who caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Pinkel modified his comment though, saying he wants to see consistency before he gives too much praise.
“Offensively we did some good things, but as you recall a year ago we couldn’t play two weeks in a row with great production,” Pinkel said. “Let’s hold ourselves back here, relax a little bit and the name of the game is consistency on offense.”
Coffey agreed that though the offense had a good night, they should be cautious and need to focus on repeating Saturday’s effort Thursday at Troy University and throughout the season.
“It was a big game for myself, but most important of course is the win and you just have to be consistent, take it over to the next game,” Coffey said.