|Missouri an offensive & defensive dilemma|
Shawn Watson doesn't want fancy, he wants points
As Nebraska gets prepared to face the Missouri Tigers, it's business as usual on campus. Preparing for the team is a bit different, but from either side of the ball, the goal is always the same.
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.
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.
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."