Daniel key to rise of Tigers

AP / File
Junior quarterback Chase Daniel helped Missouri capture its first Big 12 North title by going 40-of-49 for 361 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' win over rival Kansas last month.

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, along with Florida's Tim Tebow, Hawaii's Colt Brennan and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

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. But he was the most important one.

"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 invitation to the Heisman presentation in New York on Saturday night.

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 title 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."

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.

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."

HEISMAN TROPHY

WHAT: 73rd Heisman Trophy Presentation

WHERE: Nokia Theater, New York

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)

FINALISTS:

- Arkansas running back Darren McFadden

- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow

- Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan

- Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel

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