If they don't, it will be a long, boring evening in Columbia!
Nebraska is a one-trick pony on offense. It's Jamaal Lord and the running game...no surprises, no variety and very little successful passing.
It's on defense where Nebraska has shined this season, and the blackshirts appear to be a stout group indeed.
For Missouri to beat the No. 10-ranked Huskers, they are going to have to do the following:
1. RELAX. This team has played not to make mistakes all year instead of attacking as it did for most of last season. It's time for Missouri to at least look like they enjoy playing this game, right? At some level, this IS supposed to be fun! If Mizzou comes out relaxed and relatively loose, it will bode well on Saturday night.
2. ESTABLISH ABRON & NASH. You have "thunder and lightning"...let 'em loose! Abron will provide the body blows, while Nash has the ability to go the distance if he's given enough plays to get into the flow of the game. Nash's knee is not holding him back, his lack of patience and timing are. Pinkel's staff would be smart to give Damien a quarter or more of uninterrupted play. Part of why he is pressing so much is that he knows he has to do everything on the few plays he's in the game. That's the wrong thing for Nash and for the offense. Also, if the running backs are established early, it will loosen up the offensive line and allow them to perform at a higher level throughout the game. Linemen love to run block. The spread front that Nebraska runs is custom made for attacking with power running.
3. MAKE BRAD AN ACCESSORY. Brad Smith, the wonderful weapon that he is, will become virtually unstopable when defenses CAN'T focus on him. That means that Missouri must find other things that work on offense and mix in Brad Smith magic at unexpected junctures. If the Tigers do this, they will win the game.
4. FORCE LORD. Jamaal Lord hates pressure in the backfield. The more Missouri can get pressure early and often in the Nebraska backfield, the more chances they will have at forcing turnovers. The option is prone to coughing up the football when the QB receives pressure too quickly. Mizzou needs to dedicate themselves to hitting Jamal Lord on every single play. You need to get after Nebraska and not allow them to get into a groove on offense. They can't effectively throw the ball, so you know what you have to do! This is not rocket science. If it forces your corners into single man coverage, so be it. Wouldn't you rather force Lord into beating you with well-placed long balls than with his legs? Yeah, I would too!
5. FAULTLESS SPECIAL TEAMS. No more muffed punts, missed extra points, missed gimme field goals, etc. It's time for the Tigers to apply more focus while the special teams are on the field. Nebraska has made a living recently of doing just enough on offense and defense to stay competitive and then beating you with a special teams play. Does the game last year in Lincoln ring any bells for any of you? You'll recall DeJuan Groce's return for a TD? That was the difference in that game.
Mizzou doesn't have to do all of those five things to win this game, but a strong 2-3 of these elements could do the trick.
A win against Nebraska may not negate what happened in Lawrence, but it would be very, very choice! It would put all of us 40-something and older alums back into a familiar happy place, similar to the Onofrio years. It wasn't perfect, but we'd all take it right about now.
See you all at the InsideMizzou Fiesta! For details, see MCPieper's post on the message boards.