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September 23, 2006Special Teams Star
In 240 minutes of football, Missouri has never trailed this year. In fact, the Tigers have never even been tied after the opening score in four games. That streak is still intact due to some solid special teams play against Ohio.
After scoring a touchdown in the second quarter, Ohio was within 7-6 and an extra point away from tying the game. But Lorenzo Williams and Xzavie Jackson combined to block the PAT. Missouri did not allow another point.
"We try not to let people get on our side to get a chance to kick in the first place," Williams said. "But if we do get in that situation, we like to get in there and see if we can get a block."
The PAT was only half of the block party on Saturday. Marcus Bacon also blocked a first quarter field goal attempt by Matt Lasher that kept the Bobcats from taking a 3-0 lead. It was the Tigers' third blocked kick in two games.
"They work hard. That's our number one defense out there," said Gary Pinkel. "Coach (Cornell) Ford is responsible for that, that's his specialty as a coach, field goal block. The thing you have to have if you're going to be a great field goal block team is you have to have just great, relentless effort because you might do it 18 times in a row and just push the guys and get close, but you've just got to keep coming after it. A lot of teams, they go hard two or three times or it's selective speed. These guys do it hard all the time."
Missouri's first touchdown came on the longest pass of Chase Daniel's career. William Franklin was nearly uncovered and hauled in a pass down the left sideline. The play ended up as a 68-yard touchdown, but only after a dive from Franklin. The Helicopter ran across the field to get away from an Ohio defender and directly into Bobcat safety Michael Hinton at about the three-yard line.
"No, actually I didn't (see him)," Franklin said with a grin. "Luckily, I looked over to my right and at the last minute, I just dove for it to get in there."
Franklin had four catches for 99 yards and later added his fourth touchdown catch of the season.
In Good Hands?
The Tiger defense has been dominant. One thing it has not done is score. Missouri came close three times, but could not close the deal.
On Ohio's final drive, linebacker Marcus Bacon grabbed his second interception of the season. He rumbled 48 yards, weaving in and out of tacklers, before finally being brought down at the Bobcat 31-yard line.
"I want to score this year," Bacon said. "Yeah, I was upset."
Two Tiger defenders could have had interception returns of their own, had they caught the ball. Linebacker Brock Christopher read a third-quarter swing pass perfectly and got his hands on the ball at the Ohio 20. But Christopher could not hold on. Later, safety William Moore had a pass hit him in the chest with 40 yards of open field between him and a touchdown. Moore dropped the ball.
"We got to get on these ball drills this week. We're gonna have to pull out the JUGS machines or something," said David Overstreet. "I told Willy Mo, you can't drop those. That's house calls. Willy Mo said, 'I caught that, man. That's a fumble.'"
Nice try, but nothing more than another incomplete pass.
The Tigers are 4-and-0 for just the second time in 25 seasons. They have escaped the non-conference slate without a loss for the first time in four years. Big deal? Yes. But it has happened before, as recently as 2003.
"What does it mean," asked Xzavie Jackson rhetorically. "I really don't know. I've been 4-and-0 before, my freshman year. That was a long time ago. It's one game at a time. That's all we're worried about. We're trying to get to 5-and-0 right now."
That last perfect non-conference start came to a screeching halt. Missouri lost its Big 12 opener to Kansas, 35-14, in 2003.
Quarterback Chase Daniel continues to carry a heavy load in the rushing game. Daniel carried nine more times for 44 yards on Saturday, bringing his season total to 42 carries for 131 yards.
Daniel was effective in the running game, but also continues to take some big hits, like the first-possession shot that caused a fumble.
"They want me to (slide)," Daniel said of the coaches. "That's not in my blood. I've got to learn to. I can't take that many hits, I know that. I'll learn."
It might make Daniel's teammates rest a little more easily if he would learn quickly.
"Chase is being Chase. Chase like that contact," Franklin said. "Hell, yes, it does (scare us). We try to tell him you can't take too many of those. Going into Big 12 play, I think he better learn how to get down."
Ricks Gets the Nod
Cornerback Hardy Ricks got his first career start against the Bobcats as Domonique Johnson sat. Pinkel said it was due to a "disciplinary issue" and Johnson would be back in the starting lineup.