November 27, 2007
Big 12 Match-up: Lofton vs. Temple
Throughout the week, PowerMizzou.com and SoonerScoop.com will break down every angle of this weekend's Big 12 Championship game. In this feature, we will take a look at five key individual matchups which could go a long way toward crowning the winner. In today's matchup, we examine Tiger tailback Tony Temple and Sooner linebacker Curtis Lofton.
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Obviously, the Sooners didn't face Temple last time around. Would it have made a difference? At the time, I didn't think so. But Temple is playing better the last three weeks than I've ever seen him. He had 141 against A&M, 66 yards and two scores in the second half against K-State and really set the tone for the Tiger offense in the first half against Kansas. The thing is, when Temple is running well, the Missouri offense takes on a whole different look. If the running game isn't working early, Missouri has had a tendency to go away from it and become completely one dimensional. That's what happened each of the last two years against the Sooners and you just can't be one-dimensional against a team as good as OU. So I think the Tiger offense that Oklahoma sees this weekend is better than they one they saw in Norman. However, Lofton is, in my opinion, the best linebacker in the Big 12. Missouri did very well against Colorado and Jordon Dizon, but he doesn't have the supporting cast that Lofton does. I think the key is to come up with formations that force Lofton to spend a lot of time trailing Martin Rucker and/or Chase Coffman around the field and trying to take him away from his responsibility in the run game as much as you possibly can.
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I'm usually not one to get into one-on-one match-ups between a linebacker and a running back but when Oklahoma has had success stuffing the run; it is when Lofton has excelled. In a lot of spread offenses Lofton's role would be enhanced even further than dealing with Temple in running situations but with so little passing head in the direction of Tiger running backs it seems that his focus can be singular in regards to Temple. Much was made of Chase Daniel's big night last Saturday but I don't think anyone who was playing real attention would say there was any bigger catalyst, particularly in the early going, than Temple. That being said there simply isn't a better linebacker in the Big 12 than Lofton, and considering that Brent Venables has put him on par with any linebacker he has coached-which includes two Butkus award winners- there is ample backing to the idea. If Lofton, and the rest of the Sooners can slow down Temple, as they slowed Missouri's running game the first time around, then I just don't see a way through for the Tigers. One dimensional teams rarely beat Oklahoma without Sooner mistakes, and for their other problems this team seems as focused as it has been all year.
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