Missouri’s most stable offensive unit for the past two seasons has its own secret to success, and it includes melted cheese.
Its name is the Wrong Doug, and it consists of an assortment of Mexican-inspired ingredients sandwiched between two crunchy tortilla shells, all wrapped in a warm tortilla. Moe’s Southwest Grill, a chain restaurant, serves it, and the Tigers’ offensive line has been ordering it for nearly four weeks during its regular Wednesday trip to the restaurant across from the northern part of MU’s campus. So the biggest Tigers have been eating this wrap since right before the Mizzou football team began winning again.
“I’m getting tired of it,” offensive tackle and captain Paul Adams said. “But I love winning.”
Never miss a local story.
And if the Tigers put up more performances like the one they did in a 45-16 victory over Florida on Saturday, the Missouri linemen might have to become even more loyal to the dish. In the game against the Gators, Missouri didn’t give up a single tackle for a loss while the Tigers scored their most points this season against a Power Five team.
The Tigers’ offensive line is one of the country’s best, just as it was a season ago — except this time it appears even better. The Tigers were the Southeastern Conference’s leader in tackles for a loss allowed per game (3) and sacks allowed per game (1.22) last season, and now those numbers have shrunk. Missouri is allowing just 2.4 tackles for a loss per game, which leads the nation, and 0.8 sacks per game.
During Missouri’s three-game winning streak, it has allowed five total tackles for a loss.
“We want to be the meanest, baddest (dudes) on the field at all times,” Adams said.
When Glen Elarbee began his first year as Mizzou’s offensive line coach a season ago, depth was a concern. Alec Abeln, then a junior, was the Tigers’ most experienced offensive lineman — and he had only started three games. Now Elarbee believes his unit’s depth is pushing the Tigers.
Since Week 4, Missouri has started the same five offensive lineman, and three of them — left tackle Yasir Durant, center Trystan Castillo and right guard Tre’Vour Simms — are first-year starters. This is not out of necessity. The men they are replacing from the starting offensive line near the end of last season are all still on the team.
Elarbee now has the means to rotate players along the line, and Tyler Howell, who began the season as the starter at left tackle, regularly plays. Adam Ploudre, one of those starters a season ago, started at left guard earlier this year against Purdue.
Elarbee said with more talent within the position group, there’s more competition. That’s what leads to more physical plays he notices on film after games, such as the one Castillo made against Connecticut during a screen pass.
“He took a linebacker 25 yards downfield and just threw him into the ground,” Elarbee said. “That’s different than we’ve had. That’s fun.”
The coach’s linemen all said they have never played for a man who demands the level of perfection he does, and with more depth, Elarbee can demand even more.
“As somebody who started all of the games last year, my job is in jeopardy every day I come out to practice, and that’s real all across the line,” said left guard Kevin Pendleton, a Lee’s Summit West graduate.
After Tuesday’s practice, Pendleton held Elarbee’s son, Griffin. Pendleton instructed the boy to answer questions for him, and when asked about the junior’s performance, the boy said, “He’s pretty awesome again.”
Pendleton said that’s in part because the Tigers’ offensive linemen feel fresher now than the they did a season ago thanks to increased depth, which has led to be better performances.
“Those guys have definitely become my best friends,” said quarterback Drew Lock, who is playing the best football of his career.
Lock can trust his offensive line, which has rarely failed him during the last two seasons. Defenses have only sacked Lock eight times, which is tied for the eighth lowest total in the country.
“What our offensive line does upfront, being able to protect him, keep him clean, keep him healthy, that translates into a quarterback being confident in the pocket, being able to set his feet, be accurate with the football,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. “Those are all things that you’re seeing Drew do out on the football field.”
Elarbee credited more experienced players, such as Abeln and Jonah Dubinski, another former starter, for helping the new starters adjust. Simms, a sophomore, said Abeln has taught him how to properly watch film.
The entire group has become indoctrinated with a tagline: leaving meat on the bone. It means there is always more to accomplish.
That’s how a unit that was one of the country’s best a season ago became even better.