Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Mexico, New Result

By Tiger Fan

We all know that Mizzou loses at least one game every year that it shouldn’t. More often than not, it happens in the non-conference schedule. Names like Bowling Green (twice), Troy State and most recently, New Mexico, come to mind. A lot of people seem to think that this year’s debacle will be Saturday’s game at New Mexico (I even predicted that in my uber-early Mizzou football preview back in April). On some levels this makes sense: the Tigers tend to struggle on the road… we lost to New Mexico last year… no other game on the early schedule looks like a disaster. But having seen Mizzou play a couple games, I’ve changed my mind from my spring preview. The Tigers won’t lose this game – nor should they. And if they do, heads should roll.

This year’s New Mexico team is not the team that beat Mizzou last year in Columbia. Gone are WR Hank Baskett (who terrorized the Tiger secondary with 203 yards and three touchdowns a year ago) and RB DonTrell Moore (who racked up 111 yards on the ground). Also gone are three starting offensive lineman and eight defensive starters. No matter what happens on Saturday, one thing is clear: It will not be a repeat of the 45-35 loss from a year ago.

The bottom line is that the Tigers will only lose this game if they fail to play at their best. Asked earlier this week what concerned him about Mizzou, New Mexico coach Rocky Long replied with “Everything.” Come Saturday, Tiger fans should just sit back and enjoy (and watch on TV if you’re in Columbia, St. Louis or KC). The Lobos are better than Murray State, but this one shouldn’t even be close. I’ve seen Mizzou fail in games like this before, but I just don’t see it happening this time (and yes I am knocking on wood as hard as I can right now). Now for the match-ups:


Long has been the head coach at New Mexico since 1997 and although he has a career record of just 46-50, he is the winningest coach in school history. Long has turned around what was once an abysmal program and the Lobos have been bowl eligible every year since 2001. He loves smash-mouth football, as evidenced by his comments earlier this week that criticized the spread offense. Long outcoached Pinkel and Co. last year, but I don’t think it happens again. Based on UNM’s loss to D-IAA Portland State to start the year, it looks like the coaching staff is still getting used to its new offensive coordinator and new defensive scheme. Plus, if last year’s game against Troy is any indication, Pinkel knows how to get his team fired up to avenge bad losses.

Advantage: Mizzou


As indicated above, the Lobos no longer have the services of the two players who torched the Tiger defense last year. They are also without starting QB Kole McKamey who was injured in the Lobos’ win over New Mexico State. What’s left is basically Marcus Smith, a former tailback who tallied three touchdowns and 179 receiving yards last week against the Aggies after posting 85 yards against Portland State. WR Travis Brown also has potential. But for Tiger fans fearing a flashback to last year, let’s remember that this year’s secondary is much-improved. Darnell Terrell, Domonique Johnson, Brandon Massey, David Overstreet, William Moore and Pig Brown have all shown themselves to be hard hitters. Even if it does get into a shootout, the Tigers can always rely on Franklin, Coffman, Rucker and Ekwerekwu for big catches. Lobo fans are excited that they put up 34 points on NMSU, but let’s remember that the Tiger offense put up 34 points on an Ole Miss defense with an All-American center.

Advantage: Mizzou


The Lobos return only three starters from a year ago and will need to play every bit as well as they did against NMSU (recording six sacks and forcing five turnovers) if they want to stop the potent Mizzou attack. Rocky’s teams are known for blitzing on defense to rattle young quarterbacks, but Chase Daniel has shown that he has ice in his veins (need I remind anyone of last year’s Iowa State game?). The defense also takes a lot of chances, which can be interpreted two ways: UNM fans hope it means a few turnovers. I’m pretty sure it means lots of big plays down field for the ‘Copter. How do they stack up against Mizzou? The Tigers are currently second in the nation in total defense, allowing just 156.0 yards per game. The Lobos give up more than 382 yards per game, ranking them 93rd. On Saturday, they have to taken on a Tiger offense that ranks No. 5 in total offense with 530 yards per game.

Advantage: Mizzou

Special Teams

Mizzou’s kicking game continues to be an adventure. We’re just miss a 30-yard-field goal as we are to make a 55-yarder. Punts of 20 yards no longer surprise me. Our return guys are just as likely to take one to the house or fumble. Meanwhile, New Mexico’s kicker Kenny Byrd is a preseason second-team All-American and was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist a year ago. Why can’t we ever get these guys at Mizzou? Lobo punter Jordan Scott is also solid. I’m going to give the edge to New Mexico, but don’t be surprised if Mizzou makes a big play in the return game this week. They’ll be itching to make something happen after Pig Brown’s kick was called back last week.

Advantage: New Mexico

Bottom Line

Can Mizzou lose this game? Well, it is still Mizzou we are talking about. Stranger things have happened. But I don’t think they will. They have superior athleticism on offense and a swarming team defense that is playing with an intensity that has been missing in years past. Add in some inspiration from Rocky, who seemed to imply that the Tigers can’t play smash-mouth football, and I think Mizzou runs away with this one, 38-14.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your analysis, but check your verbage and proofread more often. What your saying can sometime be confusing because of a couple simple typos.
Sorry--not to discourage you; this is only constructive criticism. Keep up the good work.