Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2006

Missouri continues to make forward progress

Forget the opponents - No. 25 Tigers beat Colorado to match best start since 1981

October 1, 2006

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— With each passing week, Missouri is looking more and more like a pretty decent team.

The 25th-ranked Tigers beat Colorado 28-13 in their Big 12 Conference opener Saturday to improve to 5-0 and match their best start in a quarter-century.

Chase Daniel threw four touchdown passes as Missouri equaled the 5-0 start of the 1981 team. The Buffaloes (0-5, 0-1 Big 12) have lost nine straight - their longest losing streak since a 10-game slide during the 1963 and 1964 seasons.

For Missouri, after starting the season with wins over Murray State, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio, beating a Big 12 opponent, even a struggling one, was another step forward.

"Our team really hasn't talked about that at all," coach Gary Pinkel said of the unbeaten start.

Daniel dismissed criticism that the Tigers still haven't beaten any teams that pose a real challenge.

"That's for the fans and that's for everybody else to figure out," he said. "We don't really worry about that. We just want to go out there and play our A game."

Daniel, a sophomore in his first season as a starter, completed 23 of 35 passes for 253 yards, with two interceptions. He has now thrown 13 TD passes this season, including a team-record five against Murray State.

Daniel and tight end Chase Coffman teamed up for first-quarter scoring passes of 2 and 9 yards. Daniel hit Missouri's other tight end, Martin Rucker, on a 1-yard score with 11 seconds left in the first half and connected with wide receiver Jared Perry on a 9-yard score midway through the third quarter.

Both teams entered the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in team defense - Missouri (5-0, 1-0) was first and Colorado eighth. But the Tigers moved easily to touchdowns on their first two possessions, scoring on drives of 71 and 77 yards.

Colorado, ranked 113th in offense with just 223.5 yards per game coming in, actually outgained Missouri 373-353 but could manage just two Mason Crosby field goals - a 32-yarder in the first quarter and a 36-yarder in the second - and one third-quarter touchdown.

"Guys are starting to feel we can throw the football, we can make some plays," first-year coach Dan Hawkins said. "It's just a case of keeping it coming.

"I've been down before. We're good. We're solid. We're tight."

Hawkins, trying to shake things up for a stagnant offense that has scored just 49 points this season, went for it on fourth down four times. All four failed, including a second-quarter effort on fourth-and-goal from the Missouri 4 with the Buffaloes trailing 14-3.

"At some point, you've got to play to win and not play to lose," Hawkins said. "You have to take some selective opportunities and say, 'hey, I believe in you."'

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