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Columbia Missourian

Pinkel makes the case for Chase

November 25, 2007 | 12:15 a.m. CST
Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel (10) led the Tigers to the Big 12 North title with a win over Kansas

KANSAS CITY – Missouri coach Gary Pinkel digressed while answering a question about tailback Tony Temple after his team’s 36-28 victory against Kansas.

He paused, looked down at the statistics sheet on his podium and recited quarterback Chase Daniel’s numbers, who completed 40 of 49 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

Pinkel repeated the numbers in disbelief several times during his press conference, like he was trying to send a subliminal message to the minds of Heisman Trophy voters.

Forty of 49 for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

“I’m just telling you. You saw it. America saw it,” Pinkel said.

Daniel made his best plays during the game’s most important moments. With Kansas fighting back in the fourth quarter, Daniel willed the Tigers’ offense to stay on the field. Although holding penalties and long third downs challenged him, Daniel found targets and gained enough yards for two Jeff Wolfert field goals.

“When you need to make a play, how often does he make plays?” Pinkel asked.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing also made plays, scrambling to bring his team back in the second half. But it wasn’t enough to counter Daniel’s masterful performance.

In its blitz of hype before the game, the media lumped Daniel together with his Jayhawk counterpart.

Their stories have followed the same arc. Both were high school stars in Texas. But they were forced to head north because all of the state’s major teams shorted them for their lack of height. Both made up for their physical shortcomings this year by leading their teams to their best seasons in decades. For their performances, both could be honored with trips to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

But their stories diverged after Saturday. Daniel distanced himself from Reesing, making the throws Reesing is known for and avoiding crucial errors.

Reesing had been lauded for making plays on the run, but Daniel showed he was equally adept at rolling out from the pocket. His mobility created a touchdown in the second quarter. With pressure forcing him to his right, Daniel improvised, and receiver Danario Alexander followed his lead, reversing his route and darting to the right on the goal line. Daniel found him for an 11-yard touchdown.

While Daniel threw three touchdown passes in the red zone, Reesing made two key errors. The Kansas quarterback had been flawless during his first year as a starter in the Big 12 Conference. After shaking off three interceptions in the opener against Kansas State, he hadn’t thrown one in his last six games.

But the Tigers ended Reesing’s run early in the second quarter. Safety William Moore jumped in front of a pass on the goal line. It was Reesing’s first interception in 213 attempts. It was Moore’s seventh interception this season, tying him with NFL hall of famer Roger Wehrli for the team record for most interceptions in a season.

Reesing’s inaccuracy cost him in the second half. The Jayhawks entered the red zone, but on third down, his pass popped in the air after he threw behind his receiver. The ball landed in cornerback Castine Bridges’ hands. He returned it 49 yards, setting up the Tigers’ third touchdown.

Reesing settled down after that, but he couldn’t keep with Daniel, who always defers to his teammates.

“He’d be the first you to tell you about his offensive line, wide receivers and tight ends, but I’ll be the first one to tell you this guy is special,” Pinkel said.

Forty of 49 for 361 yards and three touchdowns.