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The worst Mizzou offense in decades and poor coaching have held back one of the most talented defenses in school history, and it's costing the Tigers games, possibly an entire season.
Chase Daniel picked himself up off of the FieldTurf at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas after a massive hit from an Oklahoma Sooner defensive back. The Tigers were done for. One win away from the National Championship and the vaunted Tiger offense couldn't hack it with Bob Stoops' boys. The Sooners smacked the #1 Tigers back down to reality, plastering Mizzou 38-17.
600 miles north, I sat in a bar with my face in my hands as I watched yet another Mizzou heartbreak unfold. I stared out on to the Mizzou campus as I walked back home. The only thing I could think about was how a team so talented on both sides of the ball could be so bad, that maybe the Tigers would be dancing all the way to New Orleans, making a bid at their first national title in a major sport had something gone differently.
*Mental note: Never get my hopes up during a season that will play its championship in "Zou" Orleans...
Now, here we are in 2012. Chase Daniel hitting Jeremy Maclin on a seam route is a distant memory. The Tigers sit at 3-4 on the season, with questions abound at quarterback and all across the offensive line. The defense has made play after play, giving the ball back to the offense with great regularity, only to find themselves back on the field just seconds later after another three-and-out by the decimated Tiger offense.
It's obvious that James Franklin has been hurt all year and with him playing behind an atrocious offensive line, it's hard to see the Tigers making any sort of second half push towards bowl eligibility.
Every week it's the same story. The defense puts the offense in a position to score. The offense doesn't. But there's something else that's been gnawing at the ire of Tiger fans all season.
Why can't this team tackle?
The problem grows and grows each week. Sheldon Richardson lives in the backfield on nearly every play, terrorizing quarterbacks and eating running backs before they even reach the line of scrimmage. Andrew Wilson and Will Ebner going sideline-to-sideline almost reminds you of Sean Weatherspoon in his hey-day with Mizzou. EJ Gaines and Kip Edwards continue to make great reads and pick apart SEC QBs' psyches. Kony Ealy has shown the flashes of being a superstar as a sophomore. There's talent by the bushel on this defense.
So what's the problem?
Here it is. I'll put it out there. Missouri's coordinators are costing this team games. The whispers have turned into shouts. David Yost and Dave Steckel are not suited for their positions. There's little creativity on the offensive side of the football and yes, some of that can be blamed on Corbin Berkstresser's inability to complete short crossing routes or a severely inexperienced offensive line, but Yost refuses to change his stripes.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers seem to miss more tackles than any other team in the FBS. The defense looks lost, tired and unprepared on gamedays. The Missouri defense has been a problem for a long, long time. The odd thing is the Missouri defense has sent players to the NFL on a regular basis for a long, long time. I am kept up some nights, wondering how Mizzou's defense has never been among the elite in the NCAA. Sean Weatherspoon, William Moore, Aldon Smith, Ziggy Hood, Andrew Gachkar, Dominique Hamilton, Pig Brown, Sheldon Richardson, EJ Gaines, Kip Edwards...I could keep going forever.
Gary Pinkel continues to recruit NFL caliber talent as well as any coach in the country. Yet why, oh why can it not turn into results on the field?
There are questions afoot for Gary Pinkel during this bye week. With Mizzou Homecoming less than two weeks away against the Kentucky Wildcats, Missouri finds themselves in a familiar spot, but with different results.
I find myself having the same conversation every single year. How does the 2009 team that beat the #1 team in the country then go on to lose against a terrible Texas Tech team? How does Blaine Gabbert never win a bowl game? How does this keep happening to a team that has more first round picks in the NFL Draft than almost every BCS school in the last seven years keep missing the mark?
I don't know...yet. But much like 21-year-old, sad, drunk me, there are questions to be asked on the Missouri campus.