Tech offense presents quite the challenge

No one outside of Lubbock had heard of B.J. Symons before this season, when he started passing like it went out of style years ago. Now the Tigers have to face the challenge of stopping Symons and Red Raiders. A win would make Missouri bowl-eligible for the first time since 1998.

Yes, Missouri has a men's basketball scrimmage on Saturday, but when the Tigers and the Texas Tech football teams meet earlier in the day, there might be a more flattering score.

"It's going to be like a basketball game," Missouri offensive lineman Rob Droege said. "Whoever has the last shot wins."

Tech comes in with the nation's most potent offense, with quarterback B.J. Symons leading the nation in eight categories, including 500.9 passing yards per game. To give a little perspective, Missouri averages only 370.7 yards of total offense a game. Five Red Raiders have had at least one 100-yard receiving day, whereas Missouri is still looking for its first.

"It's pretty staggering what they do on offense," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "They are very impressive. Symons is probably playing as good as any quarterback I've ever seen."

Tech's offense revolves around coach Mike Leach's system of throwing short and then running long after the catch, which Cliff Kingsbury perfected last season. With Symons, though, the team takes a few more risks, and those risks have led to great rewards.

With Kingsbury leaving after his senior year, many thought the Tech offense would have a down year, but then again, those people didn't know who B.J. Symons was. That is, other than Leach.

"He told me last year that his backup quarterback was as good as Kingsbury," Pinkel said. "And guess what? I'll believe everything he says now because this guy's good."

As for the Missouri players, though, Symons was a mystery coming into the season. Most hadn't even heard of him.

"Nah," free safety Nino Williams said. "It was the Kingsbury show."

But he's not a mystery anymore.

"Most definitely," Williams said. "Who hasn't seen SportsCenter when the man, what, four games he throws over 2,000 yards? That's brilliant. He's one of the top football players in the Big 12 offensively."

That's quite the understatement, because Symons has been dazzling the whole nation with his abilities. But just because the Tech offense is so great doesn't mean the Red Raiders aren't beatable. They enter Saturday's game 5-2 and 2-1 in the Big 12, with a nonconference loss to North Carolina State and last week's 51-49 loss to Oklahoma State.

Perhaps because its offense strikes so quickly, the Tech defense has spent a lot of time on the field and has given up 490.4 yards and 33.1 points a game. If a team can hold the offense down for maybe only a quarter or a half, the Red Raiders are susceptible to defeat. But that's asking for quite a lot, especially for an MU offense who has yet to put up 500 yards in a conference game.

Missouri's offense has been making some strides lately, although the second half against Oklahoma. Perhaps most notable, Missouri's tight ends have caught ten more passes already than they did all of last season.

But when it comes down to it, the offense has to keep Missouri in this game just as much as the defense. Tech is going to get its yards. Missouri big questions this week is how it will respond. One more win makes the Tigers bowl-eligible for the first time since 1998.

"Against these guys, you can't afford to not score," Droege said.

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