One, The Other, Or Your Job Gary

“He’s Going for Two?”

The clamoring went though the entire Edward Jones Dome as Gary Pinkel sent out quarterback Chase Daniel to follow up Pig Browns’ 100 yard fumble recovery touchdown. From the shotgun, with Daniel standing on the 5 yard line, he handed the ball, literally, to Tony Temple, who shimmied twice, but stood no chance against two linebackers clad in Orange who were blitzing. Conversion failed, Mizzou 13 Illinois 6.

It was this play in a span of 16 unanswered Mizzou points that has put Gary Pinkel on the hot seat this week. It was this 2 point conversation that forced Pinkel to publicly apologize. To be honest, I don’t really care much about that play. I wish I did, and it was the biggest issue I had with the head coach this week, but after the embarrassment of the Sun Bowl, and 8 whole months for it to saturate in, I have a much bigger issue with Gary Pinkel than his conversion chart: his game-plan.

I have never seen a team play entirely from the shotgun. Every single snap, save, taking a knee, is done with the quarterback two yards behind the center. It is unique, and I love unique. It is exciting, and who doesn’t love exciting. The best part is, it is successful. When done right.

But Pinkel doesn’t know when to quit with this aggressive set. Obviously, as evidenced in the Sun Bowl and the Arch Rivalry and greatly apparent in the Ole Miss game, this offense can score quickly and put the game out of reach early. But as the game continues, and Mizzou takes a big lead into the second half, the game-plan changes along with it. Pinkel has the right idea in running the ball to control the ball and run the clock. It is a time tested strategy that is prudent and conservative. The issue is, nothing that Gary Pinkel does is conservative. When Mizzou is up late, he tries to run a conservative game-plan from the same aggressive set that scored at will earlier in the game. This is the issue I have with Gary Pinkel.

He has admitted that the blame for the performances falls on him, and that is the understatement of the century. He calls the plays, he makes the game-plan. So it comes down to him to fix it. And surprisingly, it is rather simple. You have two choices, and both are obvious. First, when going into clock run mode, bring in some tight ends, add some blockers, solidify the line, and if you dare, put Daniel under center. It sounds crazy, but it’s crazy to run Tony Temple on a stretch play with no one besides your offensive line to block the overload of defenders pouring into the backfield. This idea, though it sounds crazy, is what every single team in the nation runs, and the idea works pretty well...

The second choice, and the choice that I think can be done easily, is never stop being aggressive. Let me explain. In a spread offense such as Mizzou’s, where they spread 5 wide on passing downs, and 4 wide on running downs, it is nearly impossible to block effectively and constantly. With this said, it would be foolish to try to run the ball, no matter what the situation, and with a accurate and poised quarterback like Daniel, it is really foolhearty to run the ball, even in the most conservative situations.
Coach Pinkel has gone to plan B more and more, and the success has been there, but will Pinkel stick with this game-plan? The game against Nebraska was a blowout, and the defense played out of this world. The Oklahoma loss has the Tigers playing from behind. The Texas Tech game will be a great litmus test. Mizzou has every opportunity to score a lot of points early, and if Tech’s attack starts out weak, and Mizzou has a big lead, will Pinkel recognize the fact that the Raiders can put up a lot of points quickly and continue to score, or will he go back to the same ol’ Gary Pinkel that changes face and gives a dangerous team every opportunity to step right back in the game. As the saying goes; only time will tell.


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