Missouri gets wake up call

A confident New Mexico team delivered a knock out blow to Missouri on Saturday. Tigers fans who equate the Lobos with Troy of last year need to think again.

The reaction to the New Mexico loss in Faurot by the Missouri faithful has been wrenching to behold.

Comments by the thousands have flooded message boards and call in shows demanding Gary Pinkel's head as payment for this loss. Most would also like to see Mike Alden fired as well...and while we're at it, why not fire Quin Snyder as well?

Such is the life of a Missouri Tigers fan.

The reality is that Missouri didn't lose to an inferior team on Saturday. They lost to a team that had been to three straight bowl games and had exceptional talent at wide receiver, quarterback and tailback. Oh, and their defense wasn't too shabby either, was it?

The prevailing attitude in Columbia is that Missouri should never lose to a team from the, (gasp!), Mountain West Conference, and especially, not at home! After all, MU is part of one of the prestige, power conferences...right?

That brand of misguided arrogance has to end now, folks. Welcome to the year 2005! Smart coaching staffs from places like New Mexico, who know how to recruit for their system, and how to develop talent properly are always going to be a threat.

The days of unlimited scholarships and significant built in advantages for conferences like the Big 12 are over.

On a night when the attention should have been on honoring Aaron O'Neal, and all that he brought to this program; or praising Brad Smith for becoming Missouri's all-time leader in both passing and rushing, all Missouri fans can think about is losing to a lowly team like New Mexico.

In reality, this game was the trap games of all trap games and we all should have seen it coming.

New Mexico did just enough to beat an average UNLV in week one, but they were smart in the way they did it. They could have come out and demolished the Rebels, unleashing Hank Basket the way they did in Columbia. That might have given the Missouri staff more of a clue as to what was coming.

Remember, it was UNM who was supposedly the team with the disadvantage, having to prepare for MU's new spread offense in less than a week, right?

What happened instead was Missouri's defense was exposed for being out manned at several positions and, once again, being short on game adjustments and play making ability. The Tigers linebackers were virtually nonexistant in this game. Brian Smith and the interior defensive line looked too small and too dainty to stand up to a power rushing attack. Smith can make up for his lack of size when facing a smaller, quicker offense, but he should never be left out there to face 340 lbs. tackles on running plays. It makes no sense.

What was perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the defense's performance was Missouri's lack of adjustments to stop Basket from running wild in the secondary. How many yards and touchdowns did he need to score before Matt Eberflus devoted double coverage to him on every play to take him out of the game? Apparently, more than 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Perhaps this is the wakeup call that the Missouri coaching staff needed to realize that you can't simply cobble together a defense based on converted tight ends and other assorted players and expect them to play at a high level against a good offense. The Tigers simply must do a better job at recruiting skilled players who are used to playing positions like defensive line and linebacker, and stop the carousel of converting athletes to positions that they don't know. It isn't working.

While the defense looked dreadful, there was plenty not to like in other phases of Missouri's gameplan as well.

Why did Missouri abandon the running game so early? And by running game, we aren't talking about Brad Smith running for his life. Tony Temple had ten carries...ten carries in a game where Missouri picked up 33 first downs! This statistic alone speaks to a loss of focus by the offensive staff. Smith won't last this season if he continues to be the workhorse in the running game.

Finally, Matt Hoenes had another dreadful punting display vs. UNM. Missouri can't continue to expect to succeed in football without having a reliable punting game...period.

Missouri's season isn't over...far from it. The Tigers need to make some adjustments and get back on track for the upcoming Troy game on Saturday. This is Brad Smith's last hurrah in Columbia and he deserves better than the lack of support he received on Saturday night from the rest of the Tigers.

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