Sunday, November 7, 2010

Missouri offense stalls in Lubbock

Tiger fans are no doubt disappointed with Missouri’s rather uninspired 24-17 loss at Texas Tech last Saturday.

Missouri (7-2, 3-2 Big 12) rolled into Lubbock with plenty to play for, in contention for a prestigious BCS bowl and needing to keep winning to keep the heat on Nebraska in the Big 12 North Division race. Texas Tech came into the game at 4-4, 2-4 in Big 12 play, struggling in coach Tommy Tuberville’s first year.

Missouri jumped out to a 14-0 lead on two long touchdown runs. When the game got to 17-3 late in the first half, Tuberville put the previously benched Taylor Potts in at quarterback. Potts led the Red Raiders on three straight touchdown drives in the second and third quarters, while Missouri’s offense completely broke down, not scoring in the second half.

Like last week’s loss at Nebraska, Missouri abandoned the run for long stretches of the game. It was just more bizarre since the Tigers led by two touchdowns early in the contest. Missouri roared to that lead on the strength of its ground game, but after taking a 17-3 lead, Missouri called 19 pass plays and only eight runs.

Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggled again, completing only 12 of his 30 passes for a scant 95 yards. Over the past two games, Gabbert has completed only 30 of his 72 passes. I’m not sure which is more jarring: a quarterback in a system built on high-percentage passes throwing 42 incompletions in two games, or a struggling quarterback throwing 72 passes in two games.

Gabbert’s receivers did him no favors, dropping multiple catchable passes. But it’s fair to question is backup James Franklin should have at least been given a chance to spark the offense.

I’m not one of those people calling for firings after every loss, but this loss will be especially distasteful for Tiger fans. Hopes of a BCS bowl or North title are likely out the window, meaning Missouri’s 41-year conference title drought will live on. The back-to-back losses, coupled with the realization that Oklahoma isn’t a great team (the Sooners lost at Texas A&M last Saturday) have caused quite a tumble for Tigers fans over the last two weeks.

Missouri could still win 10 games, 11 with a bowl win, but the Tiger outfit in Lubbock didn’t inspire any confidence the team’s ability to run the table.

Next up is the last home game with Kansas State (6-3, 3-3 Big 12). Last Saturday, the Wildcats continued their domination of Texas, winning 39-14 despite having no threat of a passing game. Nobody gameplans like Wildcat coach Bill Snyder, whose team ran on 50 of 54 offensive plays. The two complete passes went to the running back. Still, Snyder found what would work and he did it. Kansas State led 24-0 at the half with no complete passes.

They'll almost surely throw a bit more against No. 20 Missouri (11:30 a.m. on FSN). Snyder will have another solid gameplan ready for Missouri, but if the Tigers can get their offense going, they should beat Kansas State. That's just a big "if" right now.

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