One quarterback controlled the play, while another struggled at Saturday's scrimmage. When the Tigers scrimmaged again Thursday, the coaching staff witnessed the same result.
Only in reverse.
After freshman Chase Patton controlled play last weekend, going 19-for-24 for 190 yards and a touchdown, the tables were turned Thursday. Patton struggled, going 3-for-13 for 12 yards and two interceptions.
Conversely, sophomore Brandon Coleman rebounded from a 9-of-26 effort for 32 yards by completing 15-of-27 throws Thursday, racking up 104 yards in the process.
After Patton's performance Saturday at least raised the question of his gaining the backup role, the results Thursday should solidify Coleman as the choice. Still, both coach Gary Pinkel and quarterbacks coach David Yost were ambiguous in their comments after the scrimmage.
"He's doing a lot of good things," Pinkel said of Coleman. "He's been in the program for three years, so he should be doing some good things. Chase struggled a little bit more today, but it seems like great quarterbacks struggle, especially when you're thrown in there as a first year player."
"Both of them did some good things," Yost said. "Both of them can definitely get better."
Despite Coleman's improved stat line, he did not appear comfortable in the pocket. Working much of the day with the top offensive unit--junior Brad Smith took part in only four plays, completing 1-of-2 passes for 11 yards--Coleman often had happy feet, scrambling his way out of the play many times. Coleman threw at least six passes that were nowhere near a target, at times just throwing the ball away and at others missing his receiver quite badly.
Patton looked less comfortable in the pocket than he had in the previous scrimmage. His teammates committed two false starts when Patton was under center, and one shotgun snap came before Patton expected it. The ball clanged off Patton's chest and bounced to the ground, where it was recovered by senior DE Zach Ville.
Both of Patton's interceptions came when he threw directly into coverage. The first was snagged by sophomore LB David Richard and returned 38 yards down the sideline during Patton's first series. He tried to get a pass through double coverage late in the scrimmage, leading to a leaping interception by junior CB Calvin Washington.
Coleman led the longest drive of the afternoon, a 13-play, 73-yard jaunt that brought the offense into the red zone for the only time. Coleman converted three of the drive's four first downs on passes, twice finding senior WR Thomson Omboga to move the chains. The drive stalled after Coleman converted a fourth down opportunity, finding freshman Martin Rucker on the sideline for a nice leaping catch and 18-yard gain. Senior TB Beau Viehmann fumbled on the next play; senior LB Henry Sweat's helmet found the ball and knocked it to the ground, where sophomore LB Marcus Bacon recovered it.
As Pinkel said, Coleman has reached his third year in the Missouri program. He has more experience leading the offense than Patton, so he should be able to run it better than the freshman, theoretically at least. Coleman said he thought he fared well, but did not comment on the production of the offense, which did not reach the end zone all afternoon.
"I think I did fine," Coleman said. "I don't speak for the offense; I let coach Pinkel and the coaches handle all that. I just go out there and work as hard as I can and do all I can."
After former backup Sonny Riccio transferred before spring practice, Coleman was handed the reigns as Smith's backup. Coleman said that time has allowed him to get much more comfortable in the pocket.
"I feel like I'm able to make plays for my team," he said. "That's the biggest thing. I want to be able, God forbid something happen to Brad, to be able to come in and make plays for my team."
Yost said the coaching staff planned to use Smith for just one series to allow the coaches to get a feeling for how Coleman and Patton performed with the team's top offensive players. He said both quarterbacks feel comfortable running the offense and that they will be tested by a defense similar to the one Arkansas State, Missouri's first opponent, runs in practice in the coming days.
"Both Brandon and Chase have worked real hard and they understand the offense," Yost said. "They'll just continue to get good reps in. Now we'll start working on seeing what Arkansas State does."
The official depth chart will be released Monday. With Friday off, both Coleman and Patton have a chance to prove their worth as the backup in two more practices this weekend. Coleman said he is continuing to work toward being ready to step in, if the team needs him.
"I definitely feel like I can lead my team at a high level," he said. "That's my plan. That's my goal. That's what I worked for all summer, all spring last year. That's what I'm still working for every day now."
All inconsistencies aside, whoever surfaces as the backup will have the full confidence of the coaching staff.
Said Yost: "Whoever comes out as our No. 2 guy is going to be a guy that we feel comfortable to go in and win us football games."