(Sue Ogrocki ~ Associated Press)
Missouri figures to need a pile of points to beat Texas Tech this week. The Tigers have the right man for the job.
Quarterback Chase Daniel has passed for 300 or more yards in eight of his last nine games, missing a clean sweep by 6 yards against Illinois State. He's fifth in the nation in total offense, spearheading a program that averages 40 points and leads the nation in third-down conversions. And he racks up the scores against the country's best teams as well as the weak touches, producing 31 points in defeat last week at Oklahoma and ringing up five touchdown passes at Ole Miss.
Daniel joked earlier this week that No. 15 Missouri and No. 22 Texas Tech (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) could combine for 120 or 130 points, while relishing the role he might play trading touchdowns with the Red Raiders' Graham Harrell, who leads the nation in total offense and leads a team averaging 50 points. Both quarterbacks are in the running for the O'Brien Award.
"It will be a fun game," Daniel said. "Our defense faces us every day in practice, so we're a top-ranked team passing the ball. They're probably 1 or 2, but it should be a fun show."
The Brad Smith years were something at Missouri. He left with 69 school, Big 12 and NCAA game, season and career records.
Daniel, then, is something else. Last year when he took over for Smith -- often a one-man show -- coach Gary Pinkel liked to say the offense would now be in the hands of a quarterback who would distribute the ball.
The Tigers (5-1, 1-1) are loaded with talent at the skill positions: running back Tony Temple, the tight end tandem of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, wide receiver Will Franklin and dual threat Jeremy Maclin. There's no question who's in charge.
"He's got a lot of guys out there that make plays," Pinkel said. "Sometimes I'll sit there and shake my head. But it starts with the trigger guy.
"He's a remarkable competitor and without a doubt one of the top three or four quarterbacks in the country."
Midway through his second season as the starter, the junior already is third in school history in career passing yards at 5,947, trailing only Smith (8,799) and Jeff Handy (6,959). He's third in total offense behind the same two players, needing only 70 yards Saturday to pass Handy.
Running Missouri's spread offense, Daniel has thrived on sitting back and picking apart the opposition. He also can tuck it in and keep the defense honest, scoring on a pair of runs and leading the team in rushing against Nebraska.
Daniel has completed 68.9 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
"He's a good leader and he's got control of their offense," Texas Tech cornerback Chris Parker said. "I think he's going to be one of the better quarterbacks we're going to face as far as a passer that can be a runner, too."
The only area where the former Southlake, Texas, schoolboy star comes up short is his 6-foot height, a few inches shy of the prototype who presumably could then see over his offensive linemen. Not that it's been a deterrent.
"You see what you see, and he's a very special guy," Pinkel said after watching Daniel carve up Nebraska in a 41-6 victory earlier this month. "I'd just like to clone him and have him around here forever."
Daniel's play, along with the sheer weight of his impressive numbers, thrust him into the Heisman Trophy picture. Throwing two interceptions in the Oklahoma loss put a dent in that campaign, but Daniel knows all he can control is what happens next.
He's determined to lead Missouri to national prominence for the first time since the late 1960s. Surrounding talent has a lot to do with that, of course, but he's already topped Smith, who helped Missouri play in a pair of Independence Bowls, in one regard.
Last year, the Tigers took a step up with a Sun Bowl berth.
"If you win, you get a whole bunch of attention," Daniel said. "If you lose you don't get any attention. That's the way it happens.
"We know we can play with some of the best teams in the nation, we just have to go out and there and make fewer mistakes."