Daniel’s chase expected to come up a little short
COLUMBIA, Mo. » A week after Missouri's unexpected national title run ended, Chase Daniel has a chance to bring the Tigers another honor the program has never achieved.
The junior quarterback is one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
Daniel wasn't the only reason Missouri came within one victory of playing for its first national championship and was the No. 1 team in the country for the first time in 38 years. He was the most important reason.
"I've always felt football is the greatest team sport there is, they all have different skills and they make it work. "Except for one position, quarterback," coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's got it all."
Including an invite to today's Heisman presentation.
Daniel and Missouri (11-2) were bounced from a shot at the national title -- and a spot in the Bowl Championship Series -- by Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game last Saturday.
It was a disappointing end to one of the greatest regular seasons in Missouri history, but the loss did little to diminish what Daniel has done.
Not your prototypical quarterback coming out of powerhouse Southlake Carroll High near Dallas, the 6-footer had to look outside Texas for a school to play for.
With a steely resolve, Daniel has developed into one of the best in the nation. He was one of six quarterbacks to reach 4,000 yards passing this season (4,170 yards), throwing 33 TDs and completing 70 percent of his passes.
"If you can play, if you prepare well, it shouldn't matter," Daniel said, referring to his height. "Nowadays, a 6-5 guy has to show he can't play and a 6-foot guy has to show he can."
Chase Daniel 2007 Statistics
Unflappable in the pocket, unerring in his decision-making, one of Daniel's greatest strengths has been spreading the ball around in Missouri's potent spread offense. Big-play threat Jeremy Maclin set an NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yards, tight ends Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman were kept busy and running back Tony Temple usually kept defenses honest.
It helps that Daniel is operating virtually the same offense he ran in high school.
"He knows the thing inside and out as well as the coach," offensive coordinator Dave Christensen said. "I think he's probably the best guy in the country to run this offense."
Daniel's best game might have been a week before the loss to Oklahoma, when he wowed Kansas by going 40-for-49 for 361 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a victory that gave Missouri its first Big 12 North title.
"I'm sure we just sent him to New York," Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib said. "He's got my vote."
Daniel followed prolific Brad Smith at quarterback at Missouri, and began challenging his record-setting predecessor during Smith's senior season. Pinkel knew the transition would be smooth when Daniel replaced Smith in 2006. Daniel first gave a hint of what was to come when he led a fourth-quarter comeback at Iowa State in 2005 as a redshirt freshman.
Last year, Daniel's first as the starter, Missouri finished 8-5 and made an appearance in the Sun Bowl, a nice upgrade from two Independence Bowls when Smith was the quarterback. On Sunday, the No. 7 Tigers settled for a Cotton Bowl bid matchup against No. 25 Arkansas (8-4) -- and Heisman finalist running back Darren McFadden.
Although it seemed a letdown at the time, the Cotton appearance represents the Tigers' best in more than four decades. Daniel's contribution cannot be overstated and Pinkel made a comparison with Peyton Manning while describing his progression.
"He's also a tenacious competitor," Pinkel said. "I felt last year he pressed a little bit when maybe things weren't going right and that's digging to find something negative."
Daniel's role model is Brett Favre because Favre is not afraid to take risks.
"I've always looked up to him and liked what he's done," Daniel said. "He's an edgy guy and he has a cannon for an arm."
Daniel might not have all of Favre's skills, but he just might end up with something the Green Bay Packers' star doesn't have -- a Heisman.