COLUMBIA — Explosive, yet potentially self-destructive.
This is the story of the Missouri football team in the first two games of 2007. A team that can easily break out on offense can just as easily be the source of its own undoing.
“I think it’s just guys, including myself, losing the intensity and focus you need to finish the game,” defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams said. “It seems like we are getting up by 30 points, but we give a big play to the other team, and all of a sudden we lose focus of what we’re doing.”
The team will open up its home season Saturday against Western Michigan after playing games in St. Louis and at Mississippi. Despite the great support they had on the road the previous two games, players said they are ready to be home for a change.
“The fans have been really good to us. We had a great showing down at Ole Miss,” linebacker Brock Christopher said. “They’ve been very supportive, so the team is really excited about getting back to Faurot Field.”
A familiar face on the opposing sideline will be Broncos head coach Bill Cubit, a former Tigers offensive coordinator. The Broncos (0-2) are from the Mid-American Conference, a league that has produced some major talent in terms of players and coaches.
MU coach Gary Pinkel was at the helm of the Toledo Rockets, another MAC program, from 1991 to 2000. He makes no qualms about the high regard he has for the league.
“You all know the respect I have for that league and the great players that come out of that league,” Pinkel said. “Western Michigan went to a bowl game last year and probably will go to one this year, and it will certainly be a great challenge for us.”
The preseason pick to win the MAC’s Western Division, Western Michigan has had a rough go on the field so far this season. However, they do feature receiver Jamarko Simmons, a sophomore who has 14 receptions in each of his past two games.
These numbers are not lost on a Tigers defense that is giving up an average of 310.5 yards passing .
“His numbers in the first two games are pretty staggering and we’re certainly aware of him,” Pinkel said. “He’s a big play receiver and obviously we’re going to have to know where he is at on the field.”
The defense is not alone in its ability to put opponents away in the second half. Key defensive plays down the stretch have preserved the past two wins after the offense has stalled. That has been a bright spot for the defense, but an illustration the offense is not closing out the game the way it would like.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of good production at times,” Pinkel said. “We’re not doing real well at the end of the third quarter and fourth quarter, just look at the numbers.”
With just two nonconference games left, coaches know that closing out has to be a priority.
“Trends aren’t good,” Pinkel said. “If you give up seven points in the first half, six points in the other game, and all of a sudden you’re not playing very well and that’s a combination of a lot of things. I have to get it fixed.”