October 11, 2008

Show-Me Showdown: OSU looks to upset Mizzou

Hopefully the Faurot Field maintenance crew has the scoreboards in proper working order, because there could be a shootout in Columbia tonight.

Two of college football's top 10 offenses tangle tonight, as No. 17 Oklahoma State goes up against No. 3 Missouri at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. It's a matchup of two high-scoring offenses and two defenses which aren't exactly brick walls. Storylines abound in this game, from two talented quarterbacks, a pair of big-game wide receivers and two ranked teams looking for an early leg up in the Big 12 race. It's a big game in the middle of the season, one that could go a long way deciding which teams meet in Kansas City for the league title in December.

While the Tigers (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) have some experience with the big-game atmosphere after their big run last season, the Cowboys (5-0, 1-0) are new to the potential pressure of a big game like this one.

"I'm sure that there will be some guys competing that are young and haven't been in a big game at this level," head coach Mike Gundy said. "We have some freshmen that are playing. We're trying to keep everything within realm and they need to understand that need to go out there and just play. There will be no way to make up for number of reps and experience."

"A lot of players are going to be out there fired up," Pat Lavine said. "There is a lot riding on this game. Neither of us wants a loss under our belts. I feel that a lot of players are going to make big plays. This is probably one of the biggest games most players have played in. Everyone is going to battle it out."

The Tigers come into this game on a roll. Their offense is running on all cylinders and they're coming off the program's first win at Nebraska in 30 years. And with a game against Texas next week, the game against the Cowboys could be a potential trap for the Tigers. But Chase Daniel doesn't sound like he's overlooking OSU.

"We're going to have our hands full this coming week," he said. "What they do on defense is that they present a lot of problems for us. They do almost everything possible in the books from dropping eight to bringing seven so we have to be ready for that. That's how they will present problems to us, they give us a lot of different looks so hopefully we can just go out there and execute."

One of the key parts to this game could be time of possession and scoring drives. Mizzou has had a lot of success scoring quickly this season, while OSU has managed to score often after long drives. The team that establishes the tempo of the game could have a decided upper hand in the outcome.

"I think if you're going to have the offense we run - up-tempo, fast, attacking - we're going to throw the ball a lot downfield," Pinkel said. "You can't be concerned about time of possession. In the Nebraska game, we were sitting there in the 3rd quarter, I didn't want to score any more points going into the 4th quarter, so I'm thinking we've got to change what we're doing. We had about an 8-minute drive there which is really good. Our offense is like that.

"Bottom line, when you get the opportunity, you have to score. What they like to do is control the clock, they're efficient and they score. It certainly puts a lot of pressure not only on our defense, but on your offense, that when you get the opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."

Both teams are making the most out of opportunities to score, with both units topping the 50-point plateau.

"You like to have a lot of long drives that end in points," Gundy said. "Time of possession used to be a big statistic years ago. It's not as much a factor anymore because of the way people play offensive football. I think anytime you can hold the ball and score, it's good. If you hold the ball and don't score, it's not good. I know as a staff we plan on continuing with what we do on both sides of the ball and put together a good game plan."

The Tigers have done most of their damage in the air (third nationally at 375 yards per game) while the Cowboys have done it better on the ground, ranking second in the nation (315 ypg). And while all the talk about Mizzou's offense centers around Daniel, Pinkel says running back Derrick Washington has become a big cog in the operation.

"He's got a chance to be a high, high level running back," Pinkel said. "He's only started five games and you see what I see. The good news about him is he's just going to get a lot better. He's a very patient runner, and in our offense you have to be with the different things we do. You have to let things unfold a little bit. He's very natural. He's a very special player. He's a great kid with a great work ethic. I think its instinct. People say, 'Who's he look like?' This guy, he's very unique. I don't know what he looks like. All I know is I like what I see."

And the Pokes like what they envision in their heads: a win over the Tigers. If that were to happen, the Big 12 applecart would be turned over by an OSU team looking to crash the party.

"Everyone wants to knock the No. 2, the No. 3 team off the pedestal," Daniel said. "It seems like every week we're moving up a spot or two in the polls, which is great that's what we want. I think definitely the target is getting bigger week in and week out and we enjoy that. We don't shy away from it. We know people are going to bring their A games and we have to bring ours as well."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!