No. 3 Mizzou believes it can be even better -

No. 3 Mizzou believes it can be even better

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- The heavy lifting is just beginning for third-ranked Missouri.

The Tigers broke the 30-year hex in Lincoln with Saturday's 52-17 win over Nebraska. But it's the next two weeks -- at home against No. 17 Oklahoma State and on the road against No. 5 Texas -- that will determine whether the third-ranked Tigers stay alive in the national championship race.

Confidence shouldn't be an issue. The Tigers (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) have scored at least 42 points in each game, and their 53.4-point average ranks behind only Tulsa's 56.4.

They still average 569 yards despite recording a season-low 462 against Nebraska. Their production was compromised by having a short field for two touchdown drives.

Chase Daniel didn't put up huge numbers, but he still was 18-for-23 for 253 yards and three touchdowns before turning things over to his backups in the fourth quarter.

"The scary part about this," star receiver Jeremy Maclin said, "is we haven't played our best game yet."

That's bad news for future opponents.

The Tigers showed again that Daniel, their Heisman Trophy contender, has a strong supporting cast. Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman combined for 10 catches for 160 yards against the Huskers, and tailback Derrick Washington continued to be a nice complement to the all-out passing attack.

Washington averaged 9.9 yards a carry while running for a career-high 139 yards. He rushed for two scores and caught a touchdown pass.

"We played awfully well," coach Gary Pinkel said, "but there are still some things we can do to get better. There are always lessons to learn. My big thing is trying to keep this team focused and getting better."

The Tigers need to shore up their defense when high-scoring Oklahoma State visits this week. They're 83rd nationally in yards allowed (377 ypg) and 114th against the pass (282 ypg).

Nebraska dented the Tigers for 369 yards, 290 through the air. Joe Ganz completed six passes longer than 20 yards and another half-dozen in the 10- to 15-yard range against Missouri's zone coverage.

"It's just little things that need to be fixed," said linebacker Brock Christopher, who returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown. "Breaking quicker on the ball. Seeing the three-step. Reading the quarterback's eyes and not biting on play fakes. We just have to put our time in and work on it."

Pinkel said the Tigers turned in an outstanding week of practice in preparation for Nebraska. The Tigers hadn't beaten Nebraska in Lincoln since a 35-31 win 30 years ago.

"You hear about 1978, and these kids weren't even born in '78, but they're still carrying it," Pinkel said. "So this was about not only winning for this season, which was real important winning this game, but it clears things up a little bit for the players behind them."

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

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