Omboga becoming strong second option for Tigers

Friday, September 13, 2002

The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Justin Gage isn't Missouri's only receiving option this year.

Sophomore Thomson Omboga, seldom used in 2001, already has 10 catches for a team-high 158 receiving yards. He is second only to All-Big 12 teammate Gage in receptions (Gage has 12) and is fifth in the Big 12 in receiving yards and receptions as the Tigers (2-0) prepare for a rematch at Bowling Green (1-0) Saturday. The Falcons beat Missouri 20-13 last season in the Missouri debut for coach Gary Pinkel.

"Thomson is a very good athlete," Pinkel said. "I think what he's done is become a better receiver. He's become a better technician."

Omboga is finding success partly because opponents are keying on Gage, who accounted for nearly half of the Tigers' receiving yards in 2001.

"Gage gets double-teamed a lot, and Brad's been pretty good at picking that up for a young quarterback," Pinkel said.

Omboga's confidence is growing along with his numbers.

"That confidence, you can see it in every step he takes," receiver Marcus James said. "He walks around with his head high because he earns it. I don't blame him for being confident."

Wide receivers coach Andy Hill said the swagger makes Omboga's game stronger.

"I've never met a good receiver that didn't want the ball," Hill said.

It also helps to have a hot quarterback. Smith, a redshirt freshman, is second in the Big 12 in total offense.

"A good quarterback and a good receiver can compliment each other, because he's not always going to make a perfect throw, and I'm not always going to make the perfect catch," Omboga said.

Smith said he has seen Omboga's improvement.

"He's a great route-runner. He turns people around and he'll make a great play," Smith said.

With the very difficult Big 12 schedule drawing near, Omboga said he looks forward to the challenge.

"Another cornerback is another cornerback," he said. "Bowling Green, Oklahoma -- it doesn't matter. I need to concentrate on what I need to do."

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