Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sooners send Tigers into bye week with a loss

When the Oklahoma band plays “Boomer Sooner,” I’m not sure if a Sooner is booming or if a Boomer is doing something earlier. (My limited knowledge of the Oklahoma land rush makes me think it’s the latter… or both.) But I do know this: the Sooner band plays the song over and over and over. Along with the rest of the Big 12 Conference, I also know this: the Sooners pretty much never lose at home under coach Bob Stoops.

Missouri’s 38-28 loss last Saturday was No. 1 Oklahoma’s 38th straight home win. The Sooners are an otherworldly 74-2 in Norman under Stoops. So the result was predictable, but credit the Tigers for coming out ready to play. When Missouri (2-2) took a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, it broke a streak of 20 straight home games in which Oklahoma had never trailed.

However, Oklahoma blitzes and the Sooners’ up-tempo machine of an offense gradually ground down Missouri. Oklahoma scored 28 unanswered points over two quarters to put the game away. The Tigers looked like a good team, just not championship caliber.

Thanks to a tougher early schedule than recent years, Missouri is 2-2 through four games for the first time since 2005. With a bye week ahead before eight straight Big 12 games, it’s a good time to look at where the Tigers are and what lies ahead.

Despite some key injuries, the offense has been pretty good. Henry Josey, who ran for 133 yards on 14 carries against Oklahoma, has been a revelation. Quarterback James Franklin, a first-year starter, continued to look good Saturday (291 pass yards, 103 rush yards), despite only one completion in the second quarter.

The key for the offense will be finding a way to get better at converting third downs. The Tigers came into the Oklahoma game 105th nationally in converting third downs, and they succeeded on only 3 of 12 attempts. Missouri has to get better on third down to sustain drives and give the defense a break.

That defense has struggled against the two good teams Missouri has played. The defensive line was supposed to be a strength, but it hasn’t generated enough pass pressure. The Tigers recorded only one sack of Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler, and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, was able to got about his work largely unbothered, shredding Missouri’s secondary for 448 pass yards.

I’m thinking improving the pass rush is a top priority for defensive coordinator Dave Steckel heading into the bye week.

Missouri hasn’t looked that bad in its two losses, but nevertheless the Tigers are 2-2 with a tough slate of games to play. The game at resurgent Kansas State on Oct. 8 could be a season-turner. That is followed by the Homecoming game against currently unbeaten Iowa State, and then a huge four-game stretch: Oklahoma State, at Texas A&M, at Baylor, Texas. All four are ranked in the top 17, and each could be a coin flip game.

The road ahead is difficult, but Missouri can take comfort in this: the Tigers are done hearing “Boomer Sooner” for this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment