Media day report: Oct. 4

As usual, coach Gary Pinkel and the Tigers met with the media Monday afternoon. Check inside for all of the news, including a reshuffling at linebacker and Pinkel's thoughts on Missouri's recent road struggles.

Missouri's defensive efforts received most of the attention after the Colorado win Saturday, and rightfully so. The Buffalo offense could only spin its wheels in the second half, unable to put a point on the board in seven possessions.

On the other side of the ball, it was hardly a dominating performance for the Missouri offense, but there were some highlights. Junior TB Damien Nash had another strong game, rumbling for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Junior QB Brad Smith went the second straight game without an interception after throwing a pair at Troy.

Perhaps the two biggest performances came from two of the biggest question marks coming into the season. Junior WR Sean Coffey, who showed flashes of brilliance but struggled with consistency the past few seasons, made an electrifying catch-and-run for a 51-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, while freshman TB Marcus Woods had a strong day operating in Nash's wake, recording 52 yards on 12 carries.

Coach Gary Pinkel had praise for both players Monday.

"(Woods) did some good things," Pinkel said. "I thought he ran a little tougher. That's all part of maturing...he did some good things with his quickness. Playing in the Big 12, the toughness of running is a huge factor. You have to be able to run physical."

Last week, speculation ran wild that freshman Tony Temple had beaten out Woods in practice and would get some carries against the Buffaloes. That never happened; Woods said he heard the whispers, but took them as motivation instead of disappointment.

"The more competition you have, the harder all the personnel works," Woods said. "Everybody works hard and everybody wants to play."

After fumbling on his first collegiate snap--a mistake Woods said it took just hours to get over--he has been gaining momentum steadily. He has been streaky; he managed 65 yards in the season opener against Arkansas State but just seven the following week at Troy. He appears to be pulling it together now, a result Woods credits to improving his focus.

"I had to realize that, as a running back, you're gonna get the ball a lot, and when you get the ball, your job is to hold the ball--secure the ball--and get as many yards as possible," he said. "If you forget one of those factors, that's when you might start slipping up."

In the first quarter against the Buffaloes, Woods joined Nash in a two-back set for the first time this season. Pinkel hinted at the formation during the spring but has not shown much of it yet. For his part, Woods likes the look.

"It brings more attention on us instead of Brad Smith," he said. "I think we're more dangerous out of that, too."

Coffey, meanwhile, earned the ultimate compliment from Pinkel.

"He looks like Justin Gage in practice," he said Monday. "Justin Gage would catch everything, all the time."

Coffey has come close to that this season, tacking on another 58 yards on two catches Saturday. His progress has been slow, but the Tigers finally appear to have a game-breaking receiver, which they've missed since Gage departed after the 2002 season.

"I think he's stepped up and answered the phone," senior WR Thomson Omboga said. "We were coming into the season looking for a great playmaker…Sean Coffey just makes some good plays."

Of course, Coffey's proximity to Omboga when the senior made the statement--oh, about three feet--must be considered, but the words are true enough. Coffey and Woods have given opponents a different look, one that they might not expect if they focus mostly on slowing down Smith. That's exactly what makes the Missouri offense dangerous as of late.

"I think we did some good things," Smith said of Saturday's performance. "We put ourselves in a position to score. There's some little things we can clean up, but I think we played pretty well."

Depth movement: Only a few moves today, but an interesting one. Sophomore David Richard, who was suspended for the Colorado game after being arrested for suspicion of possession of marijuana on Sept. 11, returned to the depth chart at strong-side linebacker. He is listed as "even" with sophomore Marcus Bacon, who got his first career start against the Buffaloes, and both should see time against Baylor on Saturday.

"We had them at even so they're going back to right where they were," Pinkel said. "We'll just kind of resume where we would have two weeks ago. They'll be competing and both will play."

Senior LB Henry Sweat, who was shifted to the strong side last week, returned to his spot in the middle Monday. He will continue to spell sophomore Dedrick Harrington.

Sophomore P Matt Hoenes officially replaced senior Brock Harvey, who broke his collarbone against Colorado. Harvey will miss six-to-eight weeks, meaning he will not likely return before the regular season ends.

Road struggles: Missouri is 2-10 on the road since the end of the 2001 season, an odd statistic when compared to the Tigers' current nine-game home winning streak. With trips to Baylor and Texas coming in the next two weeks, the topic seemed like a relevant one for discussion. What follow are Pinkel's thoughts on the topic.

On what the Tigers need to do to win on the road: "Just do the same things (as at home). Don't change a thing."

But that hasn't worked lately: "Guess what? Someday it will."

On his explanation for the road struggles: "I have none."

The players were a little more talkative about the issue.

"Maybe it's just the fans," Omboga said. "Our fans give us a lot of help…(winning on the road) is just gonna come through maturing as a team."

Just not an issue: The Big 12's television contract dealt the Tigers another lousy hand last week when their game against Baylor was selected as the 9 p.m. contest televised on Fox Sports Net. While the start time might be difficult for fans and the deadline-focused media, Pinkel said it makes little difference to him.

"We're not doing a whole lot different," he said. "Just adjust a little bit on Saturday, get them up a little bit later, do a couple more things Saturday that you might have done Friday night, that type of thing…

"We're not gonna change much. We don't change; I know you guys are dying to have me change, but we will not change."

Black & Gold Illustrated Top Stories