Joel Klatt took questions from the gathered media first. Here's what he had to say.
Q: What will you try and accomplish offensively this week?
Joel Klatt: Offensively, what we need to do is just continue to keep things simple in our heads, and make sure that we're playing fast and effective. That's all we really need to do, offensively.
It's really more of a team effort this week. We need to fuse the three facets of the game together and really play a complete game. Hopefully, if we do that, we can get a win.
Q: What does Missouri do on defense? What problems do they present?
JK: They're very aggressive. They've got some very good players returning up the middle. They've got two defensive tackles that are very good. Their defense has played a lot of football together. They're a very good defense. The problems they present is that they just play good football. You don't see them get beat deep a lot. You don't see many teams just have their way with them. They play very physical football. What we need to do is establish the run early, and hopefully that'll open up other facets of the game later.
Q: Have they had a scheme change from last season on defense?
JK: They switched things up a little bit from last year. Their philosophy is kind of an eight-man front. But they really adopted the new wave of zone pressures that many of the teams that we play do. I think that they do them very well. They stay very basic, but like our offense, when you're basic you can play fast and aggressive.
Q: Are their similarities to the defense they run and the one CU ran last year?
JK: Not really. Last year our defense had a lot of nine or 10 guys in the box. We had our safeties down low and kind of left our corners out to dry on the edges. This defense isn't that way. They play kind of a traditional eight-man front in a sense, then they'll have deep safeties and the corners play a little bit softer. They're conscious of the fact that they don't want to get beat deep by just getting a ball fake.
Q: Every year when conference play begins, you hear about tempo going up. How have you noticed that over the past week, and what's your role in that?
JK: Everyone that's been in the hunt, everyone that's been here a few years knows what the Big 12 North hunt is like. This program has only lost two games in the North in three years. We know exactly what it's going to be like to play a physical game at Missouri; we've been there before.
It's just on the older players to let the younger players know what it's going to be like; know what the speed is like, how week in and week out you've got to bring a physical game.
Q: How physical is Missouri?
JK: Older players know how to hit. Younger players can sometimes run a little faster, but when you're here in this conference for two, three, four years in a row, you're going to learn how to play hit somebody. This Missouri defense is very physical, as well as all the other North teams.
But, really, they might be underestimating what we can do in the physical aspect of the game. We're going to bring that and try and set the tempo, whichever unit's on the field.
Q: What is the significance of the game?
JK: This is a huge game. This could really set either team up for a big year, especially in the Big 12. You can't just blow off the non-conference schedule, but at the same time, we know things get heightened in the Big 12 schedule because it's week in and week out. You don't have teams that can go out and have an easy win in the Big 12.
Q: Is the Big 12 North still wide open?
JK: We're in a great position. We have a very good football team. Just now, I think, people are starting to realize that. I think someone's going to have to play a really solid game to beat us right now. If we come out and put together a good offensive game, a good defensive game, a good game in the special teams, we're going to be a very difficult team to beat, I think this week, next week and throughout the year.
Q: Does the passing game still have some catching up to do with the running game?
JK: I don't think so. Against Washington State, we were coming around, even though it didn't really look like it. There were some good things that happened that day. And then against North Texas, our timing was really on. We were protecting really well up front. What we have to do is just continue to play fast. I don't think it's a matter of catch-up.
Q: Did you lose anything timing wise during the bye week?
JK: I don't think so. I think it only helped us. Bobby (Purify) got his shoulder nicked up a little bit; he's healthy now. Defensively we had some injuries. I think coming into this week we're as healthy as we were going into Colorado State. I thought the bye week was at a good time.
And we worked hard last week. It wasn't quite like last year (during bye week) when everybody including the quarterbacks were really hitting, but we got some good work done and kept our timing.
Q: You had the circumstances around Gabe Oderberg's death last week. Is that a factor that will come into play at all?
JK: Gabe was a part of our football family. I just feel bad for his immediate family as well as everyone here that was close to him. I'm sure he'll be on some of our minds, especially the older players, this week when we go play. Whether it's a factor or not, I don't know. I couldn't tell you.
Q: When you've got a guy like Brad Smith on the other team, even though you don't face each other on the field, is there an appreciation for what he does?
JK: I think the only thing that me and Smith do the same is our 40 time (laughter). No, obviously, I can't really relate to what Brad Smith does on the field. I'm not a guy who can just run out of the pocket and make plays on my own. I'm very much a system guy, getting the ball out on time and making my reads.
So, I appreciate very much the fact that I can't do what he does. Do I think that he could come in and run my offense as effectively as me? Probably not. But at the same time, I couldn't sit in the shotgun and run the ball 15 or 20 times a game. I appreciate very much what he does; for his team especially. He does a very good job running the offense that they ask him to run.
The obvious question is, ‘How do you stop Brad Smith?' I don't know. Nobody else has figured it out either.
Missouri's a very good, balanced football team. I think the difference in their team this year is the play of their receivers. I felt like a year ago that that was the only are of their game that was a little bit suspect. But now, the receivers make a difference in their team.
They're now a completely balanced team, offense/defense. Defensively they've got eight starters back. They're a formidable team that most people in the media picked to win this division. That's a good choice.
Smith just gives you headaches, trying to figure out what to do. You could probably over coach that stuff. Bottom line is, you've just got to go out and play.
There aren't any schemes that I've seen anybody use that are better than others. I thought we did a good job on them last year. But, then again, I felt like we could take those chances that we did last year because of the difference in receivers. This year I don't think you can take those chances. The receivers are too good, too big. They're all bit, tall receivers. They can all eat lunch off the heads of our corners. I'm sure they're licking their chops in that regard.
But we're a pretty feisty team. We've worked hard, and we'll come out and play our best game. I really think we will play our best game yet. We haven't yet played a complete game. Special teams has been the most consistent part. Even though we're 116th in pass defense, we're getting better back there. We're understanding the concepts a little better.
It's a big opportunity for both teams to start in conference with a win. Especially, a game like this really gives somebody an edge. I would think whoever wins this game would have an edge going forward. And I also see this conference, and this division, as wildly crazy. Anything can happen. It's gonna take four or five weeks before it unfolds. Everybody should sit back and watch it because it's going to be really interesting. I don't think there's any way to predict who's going to come out of this thing at this point in time, which is the way it's supposed to be.
Charlie Sherman's been playing (scout team) quarterback on the runs. Somebody else has been doing it on the pass. We've got to bring Charlie's arm around a little bit. But he's done a great job for us over the last four or five days.
We lost (Quinn) Sypniewski. He's really been an efficient, effective player for us this year. Really has given us a lot of balance. With him out of there, we've got to alter our plans a little bit. Paul Creighton gets more time at tight end. Jesse Wallace will be back for this game, and that helps us a little bit. Hopefully, we can make up with those guys. Spyniewski was also really valuable on all of our special teams, so we've got to plug somebody in.
Q: When you look at Smith on tape, does he burn people more on broken plays or in the pocket?
Gary Barnett: Most quarterbacks, if you can get them to break the pocket, you've got an advantage. With him, he makes you pay for that. I know what they've done with him this year is to try and make him more effective inside. Everybody's going to force him to stay inside.
I know Gary Pinkel's getting a lot of heat from trying to make him into a drop-back passer. But all of us (opponents) are trying to find a way to keep him in the pocket and force him to be that passer. He knows that's what every game plan is going to be, so ‘we better get him good at what everybody else is going to force us to do.' That's what I see happening with Missouri.
I think Gary said it yesterday: He's three games into the second half of his career. He's just now learning that part of it. He's going to be really good, he's got good receivers. I think that they're smart by doing that with him.
Q: does he look more comfortable in the pocket?
GB: I think he does. I think he looks pretty comfortable. It helps to have great big receivers to throw the ball to. He's what everybody looks for when they go out and hunt for a quarterback.
Q: Is it hard to teach defenders to not go after him too hard, but to contain him in the pocket?
GB: It is. But that's just what we have to do. A great drop-back passer, you can duplicate in practice. That's pretty easy to do. But the guy who can break tackles and get away, that's the one that's hard, because you can't go live, you can't tackle the one guy that's playing the position back there. Because you can't do that you don't learn to tackle the way he's got to be tackled. And with him, you've got to hold on and wait for the posse there.
Q: Joel said the one thing he has in common with Smith is his 40 time.
GB: In a car. (laughter)
Q: Is there any carryover from previous seasons when you've beaten Missouri?
GB: You always want (previous success) but in the long run it's probably a little overrated. Every year your team changes so much that the way they perceive things as an 18 or 19 year old is completely different from the way they see it as a 20 year old. Perspective's change. They didn't hear or understand some of the things you did a year ago, and now all of a sudden it's important to them.
In our case, we've got four sophomores that start in the secondary, one true freshman at linebacker, another sophomore at defensive end. So there isn't much carryover from season from the past. But there is in the coaching staff.
Q: Missouri showed three or four gadget plays against Ball State. Was that thrown out there for your benefit?
GB: No, that's their M.O. They do ‘em against everybody. They have a whole slew of trick plays that they come up with, and we'll see one we haven't seen yet, I'm sure.
Q: Did they run any trick plays in your game last year?
GB: They did. When they were on the goal line, they came out in this wild formation and threw a quick pass out, and Phil Jackson came out and made the play. They have a history of that.
Q: Defensively, are they similar to what they did last year?
GB: Last year, we were in the same system that they are. They've been in the system since Gary's been there, but they went from being a man team to a zone team, and a zone pressure team. They've just taken that to a different level. That's what they're doing this year. It's something we're going to see against Oklahoma State, Iowa State's gonna play it.
Q: Joel talked about the physicalness of the Missouri team. Is that from their size?
GB: They're a good tackling team. They're big inside. They really gave us problems inside last year even though we were able to win the game. I see them as a typical Big 12 North team.
Williams will apply for medical
Freshman wide receiver Patrick Williams broke both his hands in recent weeks. CU will apply for a medical redshirt for Williams, and Barnett said it's likely that it will be granted.
Asked if Missouri week was one of his favorites for the Tiger alum, Barnett said, "It's probably a little more anxious for me than other weeks. Especially, going back there because I have 45 tickets I've got to get for this game, and I'll see everybody. I don't know if it's a favorite, but is a week I get geared up for, no question."
In some quarters, the idea is to neutralize a great run-pass quarterback like Smith is to use a "spy" who mirrors him every play. Asked about the tactic, Barnett said, "I watched whoever it was Sunday play somebody with a spy. (Philadelphia's Javon) Kearse was a spy when they were in a nickel situation. We played a spy last year (vs. MU), and he didn't make a play. I think that's good clinic talk, and it works good on the video games, but in reality it doesn't ever break down that way."
The Buffs caught many fans by surprise in the game vs. North Texas when for the first time in program history they took the field wearing white pants and black jerseys. The team had worn that combo in fall scrimmages, but never before in a game. Jersey combo is a seniors' decision. Turns out, the influence of video games has hit Colorado.
"That's the way we are on all the video games," Barnett said. "Every video game has us in white pants, black shirts and gold helmets. So every kid, they come in here now and that's all they've seen. They think those are our colors. They're not afraid to wear them at all."
Asked what to expect this Saturday, Barnett said "I won't know till they show up on Saturday."