You look at Missouri ’s offense, it can probably cause some sleepless nights
if you are the Defensive Coordinator who has to scheme a way to stop it. The
Tigers rank as the 5th best offense in the country, putting up a
whopping 544.25 yards per game. Their starting quarterback is no slouch either,
junior Chase Daniel accounting for just over 356 yards himself, mostly through
the air, but some of it on the ground. Then you add in the best tight-end-tandem
in the country in Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman, who are both ranked in the
top 100 of players with the most receptions per game this year – yeah, that’s a
bit of a problem.
Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove schemed them well last year, holding
Missouri’s rushing attack to just over a hundred yards, but more importantly,
keeping the Tiger’s third down efficiency to under 25 percent.
Jr. QB, Chase
This isn’t last year though.
“I think they’ve taken the next step,” Cosgrove said in comparing this year’s
Tiger offense to last year’s. “Their quarterback has much better command of the
offense. He’s a much better leader.”
That could create a problem, of course, but it is probably compounded simply
by the style of offense Missouri runs. From a no-huddle look, the Tigers stretch
you wide, get the play calls from the sideline and can put defenses quickly on
their heels. Like most offenses, though, not everything is what it seems. For
Nebraska ’s D.C., he prefers to look at it with a more practical approach. “Even
though they don’t huddle, there’s a normal pace, but there could be a fast break
at any time,” he said. “But we’re a no-huddle defense. Our kids all look to the
sideline. They don’t have to get into a huddle. We signal them in, so they know
what we’re doing.”
One aspect that isn’t necessarily understood about the no-huddle offense is
that there is little to no time for defensive substitutions. Cosgrove said that
was true to some extent, but with timeouts, incomplete passes, penalties and
plays going out of bounds, that left opportunities for make substitutions if
needed. But the D.C. also said that if there weren’t those opportunities, he
felt good about the package he had. “If we have to play our base, we’ll play our
base,” he said.
One nice addition to this defense which wasn’t available last year is a true
“Nickel” formation. The absence of enough starters at defensive back last year,
much less any depth, put the defense in some awkward situations when it came to
stopping teams which emphasized their attack through the air. Led by senior
Cortney Grixby, who comes off a two-interception performance against Iowa State
, Cosgrove sees that this unit has some potential. “It helps with our match ups
being able to play nickel and having Zac (Bowman) back,” he said of his depth
and how it helps him to match up certain players to certain players. “And the
emergence of Armando (Murillo), that really helped us.”
If the D.C. has his hands full, don’t think the O.C. is taking it easy,
because just in case it doesn’t work out on defense, it’s going to be up to
Nebraska to score, and when faced off against a team which reels off over 40
points a game, you better be able to do it quickly.
With senior quarterback Sam Keller’s proven proficiency in the two-minute
offense, you can be sure there’s a lot of confidence. But the problem is, you
can’t do that for an entire game. “I think he’s (Sam) comfortable with it for a
couple of reasons: One, the defense is in a pretty generic look, because of the
tempo and the situation,” Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback’s Coach Shawn Watson said. “(But) If we were just a no-huddle team, every team would have a
plan for that.”
Of course, they have to simulate this somehow, so at least the defense can
try and get a feel for the momentum of Missouri ’s impressive-“O.” Enter: junior
college transfer Zach Lee. At close to 6-2, he’s close to the size of the Tiger
starting QB, and the mobility he exhibited during his junior college days makes
him an even more obvious fit. With that and the help of his formidable arm,
Coach Cosgrove said that the number one defense is getting a great look at just
what the Tigers might show. “Zach is an outstanding quarterback and he gives us
a tremendous picture,” Cosgrove said. “He’s got a quick release, good arm
strength and a good feel for what he does. (He’s got) good savvy back there.
(I’m) very impressed with him.”
Does all this equal a formula for success? Will all this bring back to
Lincoln a rare victory in Columbia , Missouri ? Unlike Ball State , there
probably won’t be too many critics should the Huskers give up a ton of yards and
still win. There actually will more than likely be more than a few critics who
figure Nebraska not to win at all.
So, you can understand when either coach doesn’t care what they have to do,
just so long as whatever it is, it results in something I think everyone, at
least in Husker Nation, can agree is the goal:
Forget pretty, just win the game.
“We just look at what it’s going to take to have one more point,” Coach
Watson said of this game with a chuckle. “Whatever it takes, we’ll do. We built
our plans to be able to do that.”
The game is slated to kick off at 8:15 P.M. and will be aired on ESPN.
Notes: Junior defensive linemen Ty Steinkuhler and Clayton Sievers are
still questionable for the up-coming game, both issues
stemming from injuries suffered against Iowa State . The last official word on
them was that they were both “day-to-day.”
Junior running back Cody Glenn continues to practice, but is wearing a knee
brace currently. Glenn said that he is feeling much better, stating that he was
around “85 percent”, but hoped to have
the brace off at some point this week.
Purify practicing, at least right
Senior wide receiver Maurice Purify is expected to play this weekend,
according to Coach Watson. Purify recently suffered a tragedy in his life, his
girlfriend of several years, Reia Shapiro, dying in a one-car accident Saturday
morning, according to Pasadena City College web site.
This tragedy comes in the wake of another tragedy in the California-natives
life, his brother, Ronald Spears, being fatally shot by a person who Spears
reportedly gave a ride to, who subsequently tried to rob them, Spears being
killed after reportedly being shot in the back after he knocked the gun out of
the person’s hand and was running away from the vehicle.
Purify did practice today, and while he’s expected to play this weekend,
according to Watson, his status is completely up to him. “Mo obviously wants to
be with us. He’s got some things he’s getting through and we’re helping him
through, that’s the best way to put it,” he said. “He’s obviously had some tough
things happen, and we’re there for him.”