Missouri offense strives to turn hollow statistics into wins in 2017

The Tigers aim to better execute on offense to reach a bowl game for the first time in three seasons.
Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel

If you took a second to glance down at your cell phone while the Missouri football offense was on the field in 2016, you likely missed multiple plays.

If you made a trip to the restroom, you probably missed multiple offensive series.

Just how fast was this new Tigers offense under first-year offensive coordinator Josh Heupel? The Tigers finished last in college football in total time of possession with 291.38 minutes. The offense Heupel introduced seemed to always be in no-huddle as the opposing defense struggled to catch its breath when Missouri drove down the field.

Heupel’s offense produced a 3,000-yard passer in Drew Lock, a 1,000-yard rusher in Damarea Crockett and a 1,000-yard receiver in J’Mon Moore. It was one of only three Power Five offenses to do so.

Although the Tigers put up impressive statistics, the new, speedy offense did not often translate into wins. After a 4-8 season in 2016, Missouri hopes to impress in the only statistic that counts: the number on the scoreboard in 2017.

“You can have good numbers, and you can have good drives, but no points,” Moore said. “You have to finish.”

Finishing was often difficult for the Tigers early in the season against formidable opponents. Missouri impressed against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State early on, but when a real test came against Georgia, the Tigers failed to finish.

Missouri can thank its failure to take care of the ball for that. The Tigers turned the ball over five times in that 28-27 loss to Georgia, one of which came when Moore fumbled to seal the come-from-behind Bulldogs’ victory.

Tight end Jason Reese said that game sticks in his mind as he prepares for the 2017 season.

“If we eliminated three of those turnovers, it is a completely different ball game,” he said.

Reese said taking care of the ball has been an emphasis early in spring practices for an offense that turned the ball over 23 times in 2016, the same number of touchdowns Lock threw for this past season.

Moore said simply executing will fix many of Missouri’s offensive woes. Heupel said that execution is tied to time on task.

“For every play call we have, there are a bunch of different looks that can happen,” Heupel said. “So, seeing it, recognizing it and being able to adjust on the fly. Then you add that in with your technique getting better, and all of a sudden, you have an opportunity to play at a much higher level.”

Fortunately for Missouri and Heupel, they don’t have to start from the basement of college football this season as they did last season. The Tigers averaged 500.5 yards per game in 2016, the 13th highest in the nation. They averaged 280.9 yards per game in 2015.

The trick will be turning hollow statistics into statistics that matter so that Tiger fans won’t want to check their phones or use the restroom in fear of missing an extraordinary play.

“It [will take] a winner’s mentality,” Moore said. “We have talent; we have a good coaching staff that is going to putting is in the right position. Basically, it goes back to executing.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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