State of the Hogs: Cotton Bowl Locker Room

Missouri's running game handles Arkansas on first down all during the Cotton Bowl and thus rolls to an easy victory.

At the risk of being accused of over simplification, focus on the first down yardage on running plays in Missouri's 38-7 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Missouri rushed 24 times for 224 yards on its 35 first down plays. Arkansas ran 20 out of 33 first-down plays, gaining 105 yards.

So why did Missouri running back Tony Temple (24 carries, 281 yards) race through the Arkansas defense, but the more celebrated Arkansas tandem of Darren McFadden (21-105) and Felix Jones (10-45) find no room?

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel handled that question with ease in the media conference. He said, "It's about leverage and containment." Missouri had that, Arkansas did not.

Temple waited patiently for the Arkansas front to put themselves in difficult angles and then sliced through the back side where there was no containment, no leverage from the lone linebacker the Hogs played and two and three free safeties in their "dollar package."

Louis Campbell, interim defensive coordinator, said the Tigers "stuck it to us and made us like it." He said the Hogs couldn't stop the run on the early downs. Hence, they couldn't force the kind of third down situations that would favor any pressure on Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel.

"The whole idea is to get them in third and long," Campbell said. "We couldn't do that. We had six men against their five in the box. That ought to be enough to stop the run. It wasn't. They ran it right up into us all day. In the second half, we put another man down and went with seven in the box. We still couldn't slow them down.

"The bottom line, they were ready and we weren't. They played better and coached better.

"When the other team runs it on you like that, it means one thing: you are not ready to play. When you are not ready to play, you pay for it with a result like you saw out there."

Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison said Temple was just out of his reach all day as Missouri's linemen utilized their wide splits and zone blocking to seal the angles.

"We knew they had a good running game," Harrison said. "We worked hard against it and our scout team gave us a good luck with those splits. But the think that confused us most of the day was that Temple would wait patiently. He let us come to him and set up the play. And, then, he'd be out the backside of the line. You have to be disciplined. You have to stay put. You take the wrong angle, miss an assignment, they make you pay in the running game.

"We missed assignments and then we missed tackles. He's very good, but I think we made him look even better by the way we played the run. Really, it was a surprise for them to run it like that on us. They run that zone play well and he runs hard."

Middle linebacker Weston Dacus couldn't get to the backside on Temple's big runs. He said he would take the blame.

"When the other team runs it like that, it's on the defensive line and the linebackers," he said. "It's on me. Our corners did a nice job of stepping up on the wideouts, taking away the quick throws. It's tough to swallow to let them run on us like that."

The Hogs switched up their secondary with Matt Hewitt, a starter at strong safety all year, going to the bench. Campbell said it was strictly a move to get more coverage specialists on the field.

"We went with corners and free safeties in this scheme and pulled the strong safety," Campbell said. "He was available to play. It was a coaching decision to go with quicker, faster guys to match their wideouts. We did have a scheme that would have gone with an extra safety and he was in that package. It was a third-and-long package. We just couldn't get to it."

Conversely, the Arkansas offense was in third and long most of the day. Offensive coordinator David Lee said it was not "our best job of pass protection. We gave up only six sacks this year. Today, we didn't protect and when we did get something going, we had poor ball security.

"Casey Dick had a pick. Felix Jones lost the ball. We dropped a punt. We missed two field goals in the red zone. The air kind of went out of us when we missed those two field goals. When you are making those kinds of mistakes, I guess it means you aren't ready to play. When the offense can't put points up in those situations, it makes it tough on the defense. Like I said, that takes the air out of their sails.

"I am really surprised. I felt good about the preparation. I thought Reggie Herring did a great job of getting us ready, crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is. I woke up this morning at 1:30 and felt really good about everything."

The Hogs opened the game with redshirt freshman DeMarcus Love at right guard and Robert Felton at left tackle, the same offensive line set that worked so well against Mississippi State and LSU.

"I think the game got big on DeMarcus," Lee said. "And, Robert was messing up at left tackle. We had to go back to Jose Valdez at left tackle and move Robert back to guard. Whatever it was, we were not executing up front or in the backfield. It wasn't just one area."

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