Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is Chase Daniel a clutch QB?

Kool-Aid drinking Mizzou fans be warned: You won’t like what you are about to read. After watching Chase Daniel struggle in the fourth quarter on Saturday against OSU, I started thinking about some of his other clutch (or not-so-clutch) performances. There’s no doubt that Chase Daniel is a legit Heisman contender, a tremendous quarterback, and one of Mizzou’s all-time greats. But for all of his accomplishments, Chase has sometimes struggled to perform when the chips are down. By my count, Mizzou is 4-6 in close games in which Chase Daniel has started, with four of those being “artificially” close games where the defense gave up a bunch of points late in the game. That means the Tigers are 1-5 under Daniel in closely contested nail-biters. This is not an indictment, just an observation. Interpret it as you will.

Blowout wins (more than 10 points)

Record: 21-0

List: Murray State ’06 (47-7), Ole Miss ’06 (34-7), Ohio ’06 (31-6), Colorado ’06 (28-13), Texas Tech ’06 (38-21), Kansas State ’06 (41-21), kU ’06 (42-17), Ole Miss ’07 (38-25), Western Michigan ’07 (52-24), Illinois State ’07 (38-17), Nebraska ’07 (41-6), Texas Tech ’07 (41-10), Iowa State ’07 (42-28), Colorado ’07 (55-10), Texas A&M ’07 (40-26), Kansas State ’07 (49-32), Arkansas ’08 (38-7), SEMO ’08 (52-3), Nevada ’08 (69-17), Buffalo ’08 (42-21), Nebraska ’08 (52-17)

Stats: 6,213 yards, 59 TDs, 12 INTs

Per game: 295 yds/game, 2.8 TDs/game, 0.6 INTs/game

What do these numbers mean?

When Chase Daniel is on his game and given time to throw, he is one of the best quarterbacks you will ever see. The numbers are actually less gaudy than I expected, but two factors account for that. First, Chase spent a lot of time on the bench in the fourth quarter (and sometimes the third quarter) of these games. Second, a few of these games (i.e. Texas Tech ’07, Arkansas ’08) were dominating rushing performances because the defense chose to take away the passing game at the expense of giving the running backs a field day. Bottom line is that these numbers prove what we all know: Chase Daniel is a really good QB. These games were blowouts because Chase played well – he didn’t play well because they were blowouts. The key seems to be getting Chase off to a good start and avoiding early sacks or turnovers that might get him rattled.

Artificially close games (defense lets them back in it)

Record: 3-1

List: Oregon State ’06 (38-39), Illinois ’07 (40-34), kU ’07 (36-28), Illinois ’08 (52-42)

Stats: 1,373 yards, 11 TDs, 1 INTs

Per game: 343 yds/game, 2.75 TDs/game, 0.25 INTs/game

What do these numbers mean?

If you’ve been following Mizzou during the Chase Daniel Era, you know exactly how this story goes. The offense builds a huge lead in the second half, only to see the defense collapse late in the game. Usually the Tigers hold on (thanks largely to timely plays by Chase on offense), but it came back to bite them in the 2006 Sun Bowl when the Tigers blew a double-digit lead in the second half. As the numbers show, Chase is typically brilliant in these games.

Truly close games

Record: 1-5

List: New Mexico ’06 (27-17), Texas A&M ’06 (19-25), Iowa State ’06 (16-21), Oklahoma ’07 – reg. (41-31), Oklahoma ’07 – champ. (17-38), Oklahoma State ’08 (23-28)

Stats: 1,774 yards, 5 TDs, 8 INTs

Per game: 296 yds/game, 0.83 TDs/game, 1.3 INTs/game

What do these numbers mean?

Here’s what has begun to concern me about Chase. He is an amazing quarterback who truly shines when things are going his way. The question is what happens when faced with adversity. The numbers show that his game slips when the chips are down in a close game. The anecdotal evidence bears this out. Chase has only led one game-winning or game-tying fourth quarter drive in his career, and that was his freshman year, when he came in for an injured Brad Smith against Iowa State. In games where the action went back and forth throughout, Chase has just one win. Games are obviously won and lost by teams, not individuals, but Saturday’s loss to OSU got me thinking about how Chase performs in the clutch. Against Texas A&M in 2006, the Tigers had two fourth quarter possessions in Aggie territory, but failed to score the go-ahead touchdown. In 2006, Daniel nearly led a game-winning drive that was denied by the infamous “holding” call. Most recently, Chase threw two fourth quarter interceptions against the Cowboys on Saturday that ended Mizzou’s chances to win the game. Then there are the two Oklahoma games from 2007. In both games, Chase was rattled by the OU rush, leading to untimely turnovers when the game was hanging in the balance. The moral of the story is that while Chase is a great quarterback, teams can beat Mizzou if their offense keeps up the scoring pace and their defense gets under Chase’s skin. That doesn’t make Chase a bad quarterback, but it seems to be the only way to beat the Tigers.

Blowout losses (more than 10 points)

Record: 0-2

List: Oklahoma ’06 (10-26), Nebraska ’06 (20-34)

Stats: 528 yards, 2 TDs, 5 INTs

Per game: 264 yds/game, 1 TD/game, 2.5 INTs/game

What do these numbers mean?

There’s not too much to learn here. You can’t really tell if Mizzou got blown out because Chase didn’t play well, or if Chase didn’t play well because Mizzou got blown out. It’s only happened twice in his career, and Mizzou was pretty clearly outclassed in both games. Bottom line is still the same, though: If you can stop Chase Daniel, you stop Mizzou.