Tigers may stay unbeaten for weeks

Monday, September 18, 2006

A favorable schedule will help Missouri build on its 3-0 record.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- After easy wins over Murray State and Mississippi to start the season, some thought the Missouri Tigers would face their first true test at New Mexico on Saturday.

But with solid performances by Missouri's defense and quarterback Chase Daniel in a 27-17 win over New Mexico, it appears the Tigers might be weeks away from being seriously challenged.

"Everyone can go out there and play against the D-I-AA schools, against the lower-key Division-I schools," Daniel said. "Adversity is being down 10 points in the fourth quarter. What ultimately defines an athlete is just how an athlete deals in adversity when it strikes."

At 3-0, the Tigers are off to their best start since they opened the season at 4-0. Their next opponent is Ohio, which had only 129 yards on offense -- including 3 yards rushing -- in a 24-7 loss to Rutgers on Saturday. After that is a home game against winless Colorado.

Most of the adversity Missouri faced against New Mexico on Saturday was self-inflicted. With the Tigers ahead 10-0 in the first quarter, Daniel threw his first interception of the season and the Lobos' Michael Tuohy returned it for a touchdown.

After that, the Missouri had just one first down in its next four drives -- including three drives that started as the result of New Mexico turnovers.

"We certainly had some adversity, and we created a lot of it," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "But we responded in the second half and the fourth quarter. I thought that was good. The good news is we can correct all those mistakes."

The Tigers' defensive line stopped most of New Mexico's momentum with relentless pass rushing and by forcing three turnovers. Missouri had five sacks in the first half and eight altogether, led by Brian Smith with four, a Missouri single-game record.

"I think we work on pass rush more than any team in the nation," Tiger defensive end Xzavie Jackson said. "We created a real big havoc for the offense."

Lobos quarterback Chris Nelson was in his first start of the season after replacing Kole McKamey, who injured his knee in the previous game.

The Tigers' defense suffered a key injury of its own when defensive tackle Ziggy Hood broke a bone in his foot in the first half. He is expected to be out four to five weeks.

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