FROM THE SIDELINES: TIGERS TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT TEMPO
By Charlie Clarke
Mizzou InsiderZone.com Contributor
Missouri first year offensive coordinator Josh Heupel made his presence felt in a big way on Saturday in Morgantown, West Virginia.
In their first game of the 2016 season, Mizzou ran 100 plays to West Virginia’s 85. Despite owning an offense that struggles to move the football consistently, the Tigers managed to post the highest play total of any FBS team in week one.
If that’s not shocking enough, head coach Barry Odom said Mizzou could play faster. Heupel reiterated Odom’s statement during his media availability on Tuesday.
“We can play faster. Every game unfolds differently,” Heupel said. “I thought we’d be at a high play count, I didn’t know we’d be at 100.”
With the relatively new wave of west coast offenses in college football and the NFL, up-tempo attacks tend to hold a positive reputation. Baylor and Oregon among others have seen their programs rise to relevancy during their shifts to fast-paced offenses.
Mizzou may not have Heisman winners like Robert Griffin III and Marcus Mariota to kick-start their new style, but any change to last year’s offense seems to be a reasonable one. 100 plays and 53 passing attempts is a refreshing contrast from 2015’s offense, which never ran more than 80 plays or 41 passing attempts in their seven losses.
This change will end up helping Missouri’s offense, which can essentially only go up after finishing 125th out of 128 FBS teams in total offense in 2015. But how effective can it be?
Despite running 100 plays and compiling 462 total yards, Mizzou only posted 11 points. Eight of those points came in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.
Successfully running a fast-paced offense often results in crooked score totals. But as evidenced in week one, Mizzou either doesn’t have the personnel to sustain drives more often than not or they haven’t figured out how to do so. They also couldn’t complete drives, finishing just two of five in red zone chances on Saturday.
Missouri’s failure to lengthen drives and score leads to discouraging possession numbers, as evidenced by 2015’s losses. In their seven losses last season, Mizzou was out-possessed by an average of 12:07 minutes per game.
The trend continued on Saturday, when the Tigers possessed the ball for just 25:47 minutes as opposed to WVU’s time of 34:13 minutes. This time discrepancy generally tires out the defenses on the short end of the possession meter.
If Missouri continues to play at a fast pace, problems may arise when they face tougher defenses such as Georgia, LSU, and Florida, who all ranked among the top 25 passing defenses in 2015.
While chances already seem slim for Missouri to prevail against teams like Georgia, LSU, Florida and Tennessee, tired Tiger defenses would reduce them to none, especially when facing playmakers like Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette.
I envision the fast-paced offense to work wonders against Eastern Michigan, Delaware State, Middle Tennessee and maybe Kentucky as well. It’s no guarantee the Tigers run an up-tempo offense all year, but if they do, watch out for the SEC elites.