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Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Trick plays spark Missouri’s offense

Swinging gate, flea flicker, tailback pass among gimmicks utilized

September 22, 2004

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— A few trick plays helped the Missouri offense get rolling again.

One game after a disappointing 24-14 loss at Troy, the Tigers showed off the swinging gate, a flea flicker and a tailback pass in a 48-0 victory over Ball State on Saturday.

"I just thought that you guys might want to see it," coach Gary Pinkel joked to the media after the game. "That's why we put them in."

In fact, the trick plays might have been Pinkel's response to criticism that he was guiding the offense in the wrong direction.

The coaching staff has encouraged quarterback Brad Smith to develop as a passer this season, even though he ran for 2,435 yards and 25 touchdowns the past two seasons. He had just 99 rushing yards in Missouri's first two games, compared to 183 in the first two games of 2003.

Against the Cardinals, Smith had more time and space to operate, allowing him to run for 83 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

He continued to rely heavily on his arm, too, going 18-of-32 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He has thrown for at least 200 yards in all three games for the Tigers (2-1) after reaching that mark just twice in 2003.

Tailback Damien Nash, who also had three touchdowns against Ball State, said the offensive showing against Ball State should be the norm, not the exception.

"We should expect this week in and week out," Nash said. "We have to expect big plays every day."

Missouri used a dominating second quarter -- including two touchdowns in a 17-second span -- to take a 28-0 halftime lead. Smith noticed an aggressive instinct that wasn't present at Troy, when Missouri opened a 14-0 lead and then let the win slip away when the Trojans scored 24 unanswered points.

"We wanted to just come out and finish them off," Smith said. "We've been in that position before as an offense, like 'What are we gonna do now?' Anytime we can do that for our team, it's a positive."

Pinkel agreed it looked like a different team compared to the Troy game.

"We looked more like a well coached football team, when a week ago we looked like a very poorly coached football team," he said. "I think we're a lot better than what we've shown, but we've got to become a lot better."

Nash said the Tigers had something to prove after losing to the Trojans and dropping out of the national rankings.

"We had to come back and redeem ourselves," he said. "Now we just have to keep going."

With a bye this week, Missouri continues to prepare for its Big 12 Conference opener Oct. 2 against Colorado. Pinkel knows there are no easy games remaining.

"The competition is going to shoot up about 15 notches, we know that," he said. "Our play also has got to shoot up about 15 notches."

As for the trick plays, none was very successful. The swinging-gate play was a pass to wide receiver Thomson Omboga for eight yards, the flea flicker fell incomplete, and Nash found Smith on the tailback pass for a five-yard gain.

Smith said the plays were just a chance for the Tigers to enjoy themselves.

"We look at it like something fun," he said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. It throws the defense off balance, and it's fun for us."

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