Houston Nutt liked what he saw from his defense Sunday as the Hogs worked in Reynolds Razorback Stadium in a breezy two-hour workout. Winds were gusting at close to 30 mph as the Hogs worked in sweats.
"We worked hard on recognition of the Missouri formations today, knowing how to counter their offensive plays," Nutt said. "It was a good day. Our major work for the bowl is done. We've had a good two weeks of workouts."
Tony Bua missed his third straight day of workouts. He spent the day inside the training room receiving treatment for a bruised knee.
"Dean Weber said we'll have him when we get back together in Shreveport on the 27th," Nutt said. "I trust Dean. If Dean says he'll be fine, then I know he will be fine. Tony thinks it is getting better, but Dean didn't want him to practice just yet."
Nutt said the Hogs will return for one more workout, at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
"It will be a short, short workout, just on special teams," Nutt said. "Then we'll condition them really hard and send them home to see Santa Claus. That's it for Monday.
"We've gotten in what we wanted and look forward to some polish in Shreveport. We've done the heavy stuff already. We've had great concentration and great focus. The seniors have made a statement and this team has followed them. We've had very good workouts."
Senior linebacker Caleb Miller said it was a message that was sent just after the final whistle in Baton Rouge when the team lost the regular season finale.
"Our focus has been good from the beginning of these workouts," Miller said. "The seniors insisted that this was an important game and that the emphasis would be on winning the game and not having a good time.
"We've tried to make practice fun and intense at the same time. We've had a good time with the practices, but the message from the very start was that we had to take care of business in this game. It's an important game for us.
"In the past, maybe the emphasis on the bowl game was that it was a reward for the players and the only goal was to have a good time. We still can have a good time, but the goal is to win the game. The message has been constant from the seniors throughout these practices. One of the good things is that there are a good number of seniors this time and you hear that message from a good number of guys. That is probably a major difference."
Miller will have a tough job in the Indpendence Bowl. He'll have to chase down Mizzou quarterback Brad Smith, a fast and tough run-pass operative. The Tigers do a great job with misdirection plays and counters in hopes of "wrong stepping" the linebackers.
"It's a good and tough scheme," Miller said. "I'd much rather play someone who says, 'Here we come. We are coming right here. Be there and try to stop me because I don't think you can.' Missouri doesn't do that. They fake it one way, get you going that way, and then get an angle to block you when you try to come back to the ball. It's a good scheme. We saw a lot of that from LSU and South Carolina. I'd much rather play against a straight-ahead offense than one like this one.
"Brad Smith is very fast and has great quickness. Fortunately, we see that every day from our scout team quarterback, Robert Johnson. I'm going to say that Brad Smith is a half step faster just so I'm not surprised in the game, but in reality I think that Robert Smith is the same speed and same quickness. I just know that game speed and practice speed are a bit different and I want to be prepared for a faster player.
"My job is going to be to try to run down Brad Smith. I know he ends up scrambling a lot and is very fast. We have to prepare for the run first when the ball is in his hands. It's going to be a great challenge. Our defense knows that and we know we must be ready for him to run it on every play."
Sunday Grid Report, 12/21
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