Daniel, Missouri stumble in another big game - KMOV.com

Daniel, Missouri stumble in another big game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Once again, Chase Daniel and Missouri fell woefully short in a big game.

The Tigers' quarterback was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year and has routinely picked apart lesser foes during an impressive three-year run. But he's also looked rather ordinary against higher-caliber opponents.

Daniel is 0-4 against Oklahoma with eight interceptions and only four touchdown passes after Saturday night's 62-21 blowout loss in the Big 12 championship game, including two turnovers that fueled the Sooners' 28-point second quarter. He finished 27-for-43 for 255 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a lost fumble.

"This one hurts the most," Daniel said. "My senior year, we can't get it done, and too many turnovers on my part. You can't win a game against a team like that turning the football over."

The biggest disappointment for Daniel? "Just the lopsidedness of it."

Missouri has 21 victories the last two seasons but only the win over Kansas last season for the school's first North Division title really counts as a signature win. The 19th-ranked Tigers have lost two straight since coach Gary Pinkel got a new $2.3 million contract and are headed for a lesser bowl, likely the Alamo Bowl Dec. 29.

They've lost 19 of 20 to Oklahoma, one of many signals that Pinkel's rebuilding job is far from complete. They were a 17-point underdog largely because of a porous defense that couldn't prevent the Sooners from topping 61 points for the fifth straight game.

Pinkel said a lack of consistency is what is keeping Missouri from making the next step.

"You look at it historically, they're certainly different," Pinkel said. "It's my job to get there. We're just not there yet."

But he maintained that the season has been a success.

"We all evaluate the way we want to," Pinkel said. "Do I wish the regular season would have ended up that we were 11-1 instead of 9-3? Yeah, I wish we'd have done that.

"I'm not going to in any way say we didn't have a good year."

Players said they'd make the most of it, wherever they end the season. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon pointed out that Missouri can finish with consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in school history.

"Whatever bowl we get in, we've got to take advantage of the opportunity," Weatherspoon said. "We're disappointed, but you can't hang your head low."

Daniel has sputtered when Missouri needed him most.

His fourth-quarter interception sealed an upset loss to Oklahoma State that knocked Missouri out of the national title picture after a 5-0 start. He came up empty against Texas the following week.

Missouri followed that slump with four straight high-scoring victories, but another slow starts hurt them against the Sooners. The Tigers also squandered great field position after a taunting penalty on Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias after a touchdown reception put Oklahoma ahead 17-7 in the second quarter.

The Tigers had possession at the Oklahoma 47 after the kickoff from the 15, and Daniel lost a fumble on the next play. A poor punt gave Missouri the ball at the Oklahoma 41 in the first quarter and gained 2 yards before punting it right back.

"You get a short field against these guys, you'd better take advantage of it," Pinkel said. "We didn't."

Without a reliable defense to keep the Tigers in it while Oklahoma scored on all but one first-half possession, Daniel faced another futile game of catch-up. Seemingly vulnerable Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, scheduled for surgery on a broken left thumb on Sunday, was rarely hit and had plenty of time to locate targets.

It didn't help that safety William Moore, Missouri's best player, was hampered by a ribcage injury that ultimately forced him out.

Oklahoma rolled up 359 yards at the break against a defense that has been soft all season despite replacing only one starter from last year's team. The Sooners effortlessly exploited Missouri's pass defense, ranked 116th in the country.

Last week, he was 0-for-6 with an interception and a lost fumble in the first quarter and the Tigers fell behind 19-10 at halftime before losing 40-37 to Kansas, a game also played in Kansas City.

Texas was up 35-3 at the break of a 56-31 blowout that caught Missouri still smarting from an upset loss at home to Oklahoma State the previous week, then traded touchdowns the rest of the way.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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