In Saturday’s win at Indiana, the Missouri offense saw two of its receivers gain more than 100 yards for the first time since the 2010 Insight Bowl. Both sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior Marcus Lucas topped the century mark for the first time in their careers, but the Tiger passing attack did not stop there.
Senior receiver L’Damian Washington caught five balls for 77 yards and junior receiver Jimmy Hunt finished with six receptions for 44 yards. The balanced passing attack has helped Missouri’s quarterback, running backs and receivers alike.
Senior quarterback James Franklin said that the multitude of receivers gives him options in pressure situations, in which Missouri has improved this season. The Tigers are converting 60 percent of their third down opportunities, as opposed to 33 percent in 2011.
“I just know I don’t have to stick somewhere,” Franklin said. “Like, ‘OK, it’s crunch time, I have to go to this guy.’ If it’s crunch time, I can go to any of them.”
Franklin also said that the expanded options help him take what the defense gives him.
“You can never go broke making a profit,” Franklin said. “That’s something the coaches have told me, and I’ve heard that over the years, so it’s something I want to take advantage of.”
What the opponent’s defense ends up giving the Missouri offense is a lot of zone and single coverage, Lucas said. He said the spread-out defense aids not only him and his fellow receivers, but also the three-man rushing attack of running backs Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy.
“It’s nice. You’re basically running one-on-one routes out there,” Lucas said. “And then if they try to double us or they try to sit back, we’ve got guys like Henry and Russ and Murph to do the rest.”
Green-Beckham ranked as the top receiver in his graduating class. His skill combined with his 6-foot-6-inch, 230-pound frame and 4.4 second 40-yard dash time suggests his future could involve large paychecks and football on Sundays.
But Missouri’s deep receiving corps deters defenses from doubling up on him, which has led to one-on-one fade route touchdowns in each of Missouri’s last two games.
“If they want to double Dorial, if they want to put two guys on him the whole day, they have the choice. They can do that if they want to,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “Then hopefully we hurt them somewhere else because they committed two people to one player.”
Washington said some of the receiving success comes from the variety of routes the Missouri receivers run.
“I think one of the things that’s great about our receiving corps (is that) we have to go catch the short pass,” Washington said. “I think we have the ability to make guys miss and take a five-yard hitch route for 20, 25 yards which is also great when you have to go over the top.”
Washington said new offensive coordinator Josh Henson deserves credit for Missouri’s balanced attack, which has seen 11 different Tigers make catches in his first year of calling plays.
“Everything goes to coach Henson for just giving the receivers a chance to be great,” Washington said. “I think that’s something he added to this offense this year.”