Can OSU's Defense Slow Down Daniel?

STILLWATER – Patrick Lavine and the Oklahoma State defense were outstanding in forcing five turnovers against Texas A&M last Saturday. But the Cowboy defense will really have its work cut out for them against second-ranked Missouri's offense, which has not been forced to punt after three plays on a single possession this season with quarterback Chase Daniel leading the team.

Daniel, the senior quarterback who is a Heisman Trophy candidate, has led the Tiger offense on 48 possessions through the first five games of the season, resulting in points 33 times (28 touchdowns and five field goals). But not once has the Missouri offense, with Daniel under center, been forced into a three plays-and-out situation this season.

"I'd say it's pretty amazing that they've done that," Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said of Missouri's success in not having to punt after three plays with Daniel directing the offense. "It's a pretty amazing statistic."

Lavine knows what the OSU defense is up against. The Cowboy junior linebacker was part of a Cowboy defense that forced five Texas A&M turnovers in last Saturday's 56-28 victory over the Aggies. Two of those turnovers resulted in touchdowns, including Lavine's 22-yard interception return for a TD.

"Playing an offense like Missouri, you have to get turnovers and those three-and-outs, and put your offense back on the field because you know Missouri is going to get their yards and touchdowns," said Lavine, who will be making his 18th consecutive start when the 17th-ranked Cowboys take the field against the second-ranked Tigers in the nationally televised (ESPN2) game Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (Central time).

The Tigers and Cowboys have two of college football's most productive offenses. Just compare the numbers: Missouri is second in scoring offense (53.4 points per game); OSU is third (52.6). Missouri is third in total offense (568.8 yards); OSU is sixth (530.2). Missouri is third in passing offense (375.6); OSU is second in rushing offense (315.2).

Oklahoma State's defense will enter Saturday's showdown allowing 338.6 yards per game (ranked 51st). But stopping, or should I say slowing down, Daniel and the Tigers is going to be much more difficult than Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers, or Houston's Case Keenum, or Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson. The Missouri quarterback is 119-of-156 passing (76.3 percent) for 1,665 yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception.

"I hate to say it but our team has been looking at this game for a long time," Lavine said during OSU's Monday news conference. "Not to say that we were looking over our other opponents but we've been waiting for this opportunity to play a team like Missouri.

"We've progressed… I can just see the difference from the first game to where we're at now. We're making better plays and our mistakes have dwindled day by day," Lavine continued.

Gundy says the Cowboy defense's success – three fumble recoveries (by Ugo Chinasa, Derek Burton and Maurice Gray) and two interception returns for touchdowns (by Chinasa and Lavine) – couldn't have come at a better time.

"I think psychologically it was a big game for them," said the Cowboy head coach. "They've worked really hard, and it's good for them to have some success and people in the surrounding area, the community and on campus, to tell them that they're doing well.

"Everybody likes to hear that they're doing a good job. So I think that helps them, but you're only as good as your next game, and it's always going to be like that from here on out. They need to prepare well and play hard up there.

"Missouri is going to make some plays, but we need to rally to the ball, we need to hit and strip, force turnovers … do just what they did Saturday," Gundy continued. "If they make a play, you've got to hit them. You've got to be disruptive. I think our players understand that. I was excited about the success they had because I think that can help you over a period of time."

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