October 14, 2009

Tiger ground game starts up front

The questions are there. You would have to be deaf or illiterate not to hear them or read them. Missouri's offensive linemen are neither.

"There's always just that one more block," right guard Kurtis Gregory said. "Every big run play we had a penalty on and it wasn't like we were just flat out grabbing the guy. Just a matter of, if the hands would have been a little bit more inside, it would have been a great running play, and I don't think there would be any of these questions right now."

Yes, the line-thought in spring and fall practice to be perhaps the strength of this Missouri offense-is a question mark through five games for the Tigers. Probably the biggest one.

Through five games, Missouri ranks tenth in the Big 12 in rushing, gaining just 132.6 yards per contest. The Tigers are also tenth in a more important statistic-yards per carry. Mizzou backs are gaining just 3.6 yards every time they run the football.

"No question we've got to run the ball better," Gary Pinkel said. "It has to do with blocking. It has to do with schemes. It has to do with fundamentals. Technique."

Over the last couple of weeks, Pinkel has pointed to off-season changes in blocking schemes as a reason for the slow start. But the problem is, it's no longer just a slow start. The Oklahoma State game on Saturday will mark the halfway point of the season and Missouri's ground game is still at a standstill.

So, five games in, the question remains: Are the Tigers good enough up front to achieve their goals? The players in question insist they're closer than most think.

"We should have been better than what we were, but we're getting there," Gregory said. "We're better in the run game now than we were in the Illinois game. Some people would be like, 'Oh, no, you're crazy.' But watching the film, there's just so much we've gotten better at."

But the questions remain. It's the answers the Tigers need.

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