Offensive mismatch: MU talent vs. schemes

The collective fan meltdown is underway. Missouri lost to Bowling Green on Saturday night and the finger pointing has already started. The informed Tiger fan will hopefully take a more enlightened examination of why Mizzou struggled so much during that game. Supermizzou will first look at the offense.

Why did the Missouri offense struggle so much against a much smaller, but salty Bowling Green defense? Here are some explanations:

OFFENSIVE LINE: Missouri is trying to become a zone blocking team. What that means is that each offensive lineman is responsible for "occupying" a certain area of the defensive line. Gone are the days of counting pancake blocks and drive blocking.

There is nothing inherently good or bad with zone blocking, however, it does require a quicker, more athletic type of offensive lineman to run it properly. The Denver Broncos are perpetually at the top of the NFL in team rushing, and has produced a string of successful backs.

The current line was recruited to be power drive blockers, meaning, you latch on to the guy in front of you and you drive your 340 lbs. into him until he's eight yards in his own defensive backfield, or your bury him on his back.

In a zone blocking scheme, speed and agility are the keys. I'll leave it to those 50,000 plus who witnessed the first game to decide if the current line exhibits those attributes.

RUNNING BACKS: Obviously, if you're line is zone blocking, your running backs have to be able to hit the seams quickly. Power isn't the key, quickness is!

One of the offensive coaches told me in the spring that the ideal type of running back for their offense is Marshall Faulk. Faulk is quick, cuts back well, catches the ball out of the backfield well, and has great vision.

The two top running back for the Tigers were recruited with a basic power game in mind. The Larry Smith, "beat 'em up all game, and the fourth quarter will be ours" offensive philosophy fit Zack Abron and Zain Gilmore adequately.

The current Pinkel philosophy doesn't.

Neither back attacks the line of scrimmage quick enough. Neither back cuts back well, or has any wiggle in his running style. And neither back is especially adept at catching the ball and making people miss in the open field.

QUARTERBACK: While Pinkel values QBs who can run with the ball and make things happen, he is much more concerned with QBs who can protect the ball, make good decisions and complete passes.

Darius Outlaw has shown himself to be a creative, on-the-fly QB who has a strong arm and is a decent runner. What Outlaw hasn't shown the ability to do is protect the ball, make good decisions or consistently complete passes. Outlaw is not an accurate QB.

Somebody like a Marlon Adler would be perfect in Gary Pinkel's offense. Adler was far from God's gift from an athletic or stature standpoint. However, Adler was gritty, crafty, quick and accurate. Adler found was to keep drives alive.

Outlaw's two interceptions, one fumble, an intentional grounding, and under .500 completion rate on the night show us that he is confused and tight. By all accounts, Outlaw looked like a QB trying not to make mistakes, instead of being worried about making good decisions and making plays.

As any golfer knows, the more you worry about that slice, the more likely you are to...slice.

Clearly, the Tigers are fundamentally mismatched on offense, with what Pinkel and his staff are trying to do. So what can be done to correct the situation this year?

First, the offensive line has be more aggressive and hold their blocks longer. They may not know all of the zone blocking techniques as well as they should, but they can fire out and be more tenacious. It comes down to personal pride, and you have to wonder about this unit's sense of pride based on Saturday's performance.

With additional practice, this unit will improve in the new techniques, but don't expect miracles.

Abron and Gilmore aren't going to be mistaken for Marshall Faulk anytime soon, so it's time for the other quicker backs on the roster (Starks and Roberson), to get themselves ready to play. Neither Zack or Zain appear to be quick enough to play tailback in this offense, plain and simple. This can't be corrected, and this offense needs some zip in the backfield. It's time for a change.

The verdict on Outlaw is the same. Outlaw is still inaccurate after being at Missouri for three years. Outlaw has never shown the propensity for protecting the ball, or making consistenly good decisions.

We would recommend mixing in Jim Dougherty, who is a more accurate short-range passer, until Kirk Farmer is ready to return.

Speaking of Farmer, he has been cleared to return to full practice, but Pinkel should not rush him back. Farmer continues to be the key to whether Missouri finishes the season close to .500 or significantly worse. If Farmer reinjures his punching (er, throwing) hand because he is playing before it's completely healed, the Tigers will be looking at a long, long year.

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