Thursday, October 4, 2007

We're moving!

Well, this has been in the works a while...Mizzou Sanity is joining forces (so to speak) with the purveyor of Every True Son and joining Sports Blog Nation as...

Rock M Nation!

Sanity has served us well, and the archive will remain, but from this point on, you'll need to change your bookmarks. All future posting will take place at RMN.


Official Nebraska Video Viewing

These should hopefully be enough to get you to maximum "pumped" before Saturday.

First, the compilation of the 1997 and 2003 games.

And then the 2005 game.

If you can't view these videos, please visit and download the free player from there.


Mizzou Sanity Roundtable: Week 5

This exchange took place Tuesday--I almost forgot to post it...have been a little distracted this'll probably understand later this evening...

1) In the Big 12...what the hell happened last weekend??

2) What the hell happens now??

3) Rank the teams in the North. I dare you. And then I double-dog dare you to explain yourself.

4) Make your predictions for this week: NU @ MU, KU @ KSU, UT vs OU, OSU @ ATM, ISU @ TT, CU @ BU.

Bonus) How many days until Dennis Franchione resigns?


The Beef: In the Big XII last weekend, um….I did not see much of it. From what I can tell, OU had a freshman play like a freshman, and the Longhorns displayed worse special teams than the St. Louis Rams of a year ago and just could not get it done at home. I have said it before, Ron Prince, though having few other people’s numbers, seems to have Mack Brown’s. I think OU rebounds this week since I think UT may finally be exposed like some thought they might be early in the season. In the end, I think it just means that OU runs away with the south and UT comes back to the pack a little bit, which may or may not hurt my personal aspirations of the MU getting to the Cotton Bowl this year.

Well, as I said, I think OU ends up winning the south by a few over a couple of teams. As for the north, it is an elimination style weekend I think with MU/NU and kSU/kU. Winners are much better off and losers are going to struggle to come back from it unless another crazy weekend happens. I think ISU is really pretty bad, and I think while it was a good win for CU and they wont get blown out of games, I think they will still lose enough to come in 5th.

6. ISU, 5. CU, 4. kU (but I think they still finish the season well and make a bowl) , 3. NU, 2. kSU, 1. MU (I think my predictions for the weekend may be bleeding through here a bit) As for my explanation….yeah…I think kU does not quite get it done on the road and I think we win this weekend setting these rankings in motion. I could see NU and kSU flopping during the season, but if Okie State has figured out their offense, I think NU will struggle to keep them from scoring as much as I hope/believe we will.

I think MU by 10-14, kSU in a squeaker, OU by a good amount, OSU to go in and “upset” aTm who has had a helluva week, TT all over ISU and Baylor beating Colorado.

90 days…just after the first of the year I believe for Coach Fran.

Michael Atchison: 1) (1) The world spun off its axis; (2) Texas is good, but not single-digit ranking good; (3) Oklahoma built a lead and then started dreaming about next week; and (4) Kansas and Colorado made plays on defense. The Cats beat Colt McCoy to a a pulp, and CU linebacker Jordon Dizon was all over the field in the fourth quarter.

2) How should I know? I said there was a 0% chance that either K-State or Colorado would win on Saturday. Now, it's a free-for-all. The Kansas/KSU and Missouri/Nebraska games are huge. The losers of those games are going to need help if they hope to advance to San Antonio.


1. Missouri - Because I'm a homer
2. Kansas State - Because they have the division's best win, hands down.
3. Kansas - Because they've gone all Ali-Wepner on their opponents.
4. Colorado - Because they're too mercurial for me to believe in - yet.
5. Nebraska - Because they haven't been impressive in a month.
6. Iowa State - Because they already won their one game.

4) Missouri 45 Nebraska 34
K-State 24 Kansas 21
Oklahoma 38 Texas 14
Texas A&M 27 Oklahoma State 20
Texas Tech 946 Iowa State 14
Colorado 23 Baylor 16

Bonus) That guy has made himself radioactive as a coach. Having a vagabond heart and a crushing lack of judgment is a bad combo. The rumor was he'd be gone by today, and having no other clue, I'll go with that.
ZouDave: 1 - Well, see, what happened uh....we....Go Tigers? I don't know what happened last weekend, but I do know that the Mizzou/Nebraska game is no longer the de facto Big XII North Championship game because ksu and Colorado each picked up a win there was just NO WAY they were going to get. And when you consider that Missouri, the team picked to win the North and the team favored in the game against Nebraska, has to travel to BOTH ksu and CU, then the North just got a lot cloudier. And the South got smacked in the mouth, and I love it.

2 - This weekend will unmuddy the waters a bit. There will be a clearer pecking order after Saturday, because every team in the North will have played and many of them will have played each other. We'll know more about ku after Saturday than we know after their first 4 games, we'll know if ksu means business this year or if it's just that Prince owns Brown, and we'll know if Missouri is at least serious about being the team we think they are. As for what actually happens? My rankings will probably indicate that.

3 -
#6 - Iowa State. The only easy answer. Iowa State is worse than last year. They shouldn't have won a game in the conference last year, and now they're worse. Is it possible for them to go 0-9? If it is, they'll do it. Awful team. Just horrible.

#5 - kansas. ku is clearly better this year than last, and I think they're clearly better than I gave them credit for. We still have no idea how good, and their fluffy fresh schedule so far this year did NOT harden them and their alarm clock is going off but they want to continue to hit snooze. ku will be 3-5 in conference this year, because there's not a road game on their schedule that looks good for them and I obviously don't like them in the game at Arrowhead. Much like last year, ku will probably be close in games but I still don't think they're quite good enough to pull them out. But this is definitely a bowl team, and it appears they'll have a nice foundation to build from after this.

#4 - Nebraska. This will be a tie-breaker thing. I had Nebraska picked 5-3 in the conference before the season started, but now I'm giving the nod to Colorado over them based on new information. Their passing game just isn't good enough and their defense sure isn't good enough. Their running game is probably good enough, but a good running game only gets you multiple wins when it's combined with a good defense. Nebraska is going to get beaten a few times this year by teams they don't like losing to. And they're going to lose at home to Texas A&M, who will run for approximately 861 yards against them.

#3 - Colorado. Where did this come from? Even I said before the season that Colorado won't be as bad as last year but I didn't expect this. But this is now a very real 4-4 team in conference and could easily move up to 5-3 if Missouri isn't good enough on the road. They win the tie-breaker over Nebraska in the last game of the year.

#2 - Missouri. Do you know how painful it is to put this here? It physically hurts me. But when ksu beat Texas, they picked up a win they just shouldn't have been able to get. Missouri is still as good as I thought they were, because I still think we're a 10-2 team. We're going to lose in Norman and we're going to lose in Manhattan. We'll have a better overall record than every other team in the North, but the tie-breaker is going to get us.

#1 - kansas state. Ugh. I feel dirty. But seriously, they beat Texas which wasn't supposed to happen and now their schedule is setup perfectly. They have 3 of the meaningful 4 North opponents at home, plus they have Baylor at home and travel to Iowa State. They'll probably lose down in Stillwater because OSU plays differently at home, and I think they'll lose to Nebraska in Lincoln. But at 6-2, with a win over Missouri, they win the North by tie-breaker. This won't so much be Missouri not doing something right, because we're going to go 6-2 for crying out loud, but ksu needed that other loss. We could have afforded a loss to them if they were going to be 5-3. Missouri is going to have to go 7-1 to win the North, or at least make that other loss to Colorado instead of ksu. The Wildcats just have too perfect of a schedule now. Manhatter is going to be insufferable for the rest of time. I may have to leave Tigerboard over this. I think the good that could come from this is it's entirely possible a major program comes courting Prince if he was to win the North in his 2nd season, and I just don't think ksu can keep him if someone like Michigan, Notre Dame, etc. was to offer him a job.

4 - Mizzou defeats Nebraska, KSU defeats ku, Oklahoma defeats Texas, A&M defeats OSU, Texas Tech defeats Iowa State, Baylor upsets Colorado. There has to be at least one upset this week.

Bonus - I think he will announce his resignation on Monday of next week, but he will finish the year as head coach. He's going to have a hard time getting another high profile job. Mike Price from UTEP will be his replacement at aTm. This time, however, there will be no strippers involved.
Doug: 1) I was too busy wandering around Las Vegas Blvd to realize what was going on, until I stopped at the sportsbook in the Bellagio. To see the spreads next to the final scores was really stunning. I think Seth has a point, Ron Price may very well have Mack Brown's number, especially Mack Brown without Vince Young. And, I think the gap between the have's and have-not's of the conference is shrinking, how else can you explain the failure of Nebraska to cover, Oklahoma to win and Texas to even show up?

2) I'm still sticking with OU to win the South, and in fact, the conference. I think the North is still up for grabs between NU, MU and... Kansas.

3) Frankly, with KU and MU missing a conference game, I think you have to basically go off the current standings, 1) Nebraska 2) KSU 3) CU 4) KU 5) MU 6) ISU

4) MU 35 NU 31 , KU 28 KSU 21 , OU 24 UT 17 , OSU 42 aTm 21 , TT 52 ISU 9 , CU 21 BU 17

Bonus) Coach Fran... even if he makes it to the end of the season, I'm pretty sure A&M fans will be ready to force him out at the end of the season, bowl or not.
The Boy: 1) For CU-OU, I really do think it was a case of OU letting up and never taking CU out of the game mentally. Even when they were down 24-7, CU was trying harder than OU was. And by the time OU realized they were in a dogfight, they had been knocked back on their heels. A Daily Oklahoman columnist tried to say that the altitude had something to do with it, and maybe it did, but...momentum is so huge in college sports, and I think momentum had as much or more to do with it than stamina. That said, I bet there were a lot of laps being run in Norman Sunday and Monday.

As for KSU-UT...with about 6 minutes left in the first half, KSU punted with the score 7-7. The next time Josh Freeman touched the ball, they had 21 points. KSU avoided mistakes of its own while Texas peed down its leg, allowing an INT return, kick return, and punt return for TD's, not to mention throwing an additional two INT's in its own territory. KSU obviously played a part in that, but once KSU got the 10-point lead (24-14), UT was out of its gameplan and out of its element. I think it said a bit about K-State and a ton about UT--they repeatedly threw for 3 yards on 3rd-and-10, a Mizzou-with-Brad-Smith-esque thing to do. McCoy has no confidence, the staff has no confidence in McCoy, and if the score gets away from them before Jamaal Charles can establish himself, UT's in deep trouble.

As for the other two games, NU-ISU was a crap fest for a half before NU decided to look like a somwhat competent team, and BU-ATM was a crap fest for a half before ATM decided to look like a somewhat competent team. Neither game did the two favorites any favors.

2) I think KSU has a golden opportunity due to their schedule. If they continue to avoid mistakes--a pretty hefty 'if', but it's at least somewhat feasible--they really could be 5-1 before finishing up with NU and MU. But to take advantage of that opportunity, they have to beat KU this Saturday. Their North chances aren't crippled with a loss (due to the fact that they already have a road win over UT on their resume), but they're damaged. As for OU-UT, the only notable thing to mention is simply that the loser ( i.e. Texas) has almost no chance of catching back up to the pack. The winner (i.e. OU) will be 1-1, and the winner of ATM/OSU will be 2-0. A 2-game hole with that many teams in front of you is pretty rough.

3) I guess I already posted about this yesterday. 1) MU, 2) KSU, 3) NU, 4) KU, 5) CU, 6) ISU.

4) OU 31, UT 17. MU 38, NU 31. KSU 24, KU 20. ATM 35, OSU 27. Tech 44, ISU 24. BU 20, CU 16.

*) I just checked Google News to make sure he hadn't already. It appears he might weather the 'insider info' scandal for now (then again, still four days till Saturday), but he better go at least 9-3 at this point. They're looking for a reason to oust him, and 8-4 might not be enough for him.

Now, as always...questions from the field?
The Beef: Alright…I will ask this for a roundtable question

With another installment of the “gold helmets” rumor….as a fan…or I guess to each of you personally, how do you feel? Would you be in favor of something like that? Or do you prefer we remain traditional (as much as we can) in that aspect?
The Boy: Honestly, the thought of a mustard and old gold mix makes me nauseous, but hey...whatever the players want to do, I'm cool with it. I'm apparently one of the few that completely enjoys the all black look, but I have also enjoyed breaking out the gold pants once a year (2005 against NU, 2006 at Tech). If they really want to do gold helmets, I'll laugh, I'll dry heave a little, and then I'll enjoy the game just as much as I otherwise would have.
The Beef: I suppose my only problem with it would be a change to the “M” since either you go with a black “M” or you go with the new logo….either way, you change one of the few enduring things we actually have about our uniforms. And as an unabashed proponent of tradition in unis (yes, Penn State has the best with a couple of other schools), I think changing the helmet is a step in a bad direction. I would ALMOST rather gold unis, at least we have had them at SOME point…I do not recall ever seeing gold helmets though.
The Boy: As long as it was a one-game change, I'd be okay with it. Lots of teams do various throwback ideas (though you're right, gold helmets aren't much of a throwback since I can't recall them ever doing it), and I'd be okay if they broke out something interesting just once, then went back to the original...
Doug: A quick glance at Helmet Project, which goes back to 1970, shows no gold helmets in MU's past.

Now, the "M" has undergone some changes, from white to yellow-gold back to white to the current dark gold. What makes me wonder about MU's uniforms is the fact the yellow pants are bright yellow, instead of matching more closely with the color of the M.

Of course, I'd like to see KU add a pair of blue pants, for use with the road white or alternate red jerseys, so what the hell do I now?
Michael Atchison: I can't tell you how much I don't care about uniforms. I'm astonished how bat$%!t crazy it makes some people, and how much mental energy is devoted to it. If they want to pull out a special helmet, jersey or jockstrap from time to time, fine by me.
ZouDave: In the end, as long as we're wearing black and gold then I don't necessarily care where and how much they appear on the uniform.

If it was my call, though, I'd leave the helmets as they are now and I'd have black tops with gold pants at home, white tops with black pants on the road, and then for the blackout game at Faurot the team would wear all black.

But, that's only if it were up to me. As long as it's black and gold, I don't care. I also don't really care about the M on the helmets vs the Tiger logo, because I happen to really like that logo. But, I do respect the fact that we've had the M on our helmet for so long. If it's my choice, we leave the M, but if we change to the tiger (even for one game) it will not bother me nor make me happier.

I'm far more concerned with those idiots wearing St. Louis Cardinals hats to a Mizzou game against Nebraska!!!!!!


Mizzou Links, 10-4-07

I'd just like to point out that it's only about 63 hours to kickoff...

  • Stop me if you've heard this one before: Mizzou Volleyball jumped out to take the first two games at Colorado last night (live on Fox Sports Midwest!), looking unbelievable in the process. They then proceeded to let up and lose the next two games before regaining their footing and pulling things out in Game 5. That's the third time in Big 12 play that they've blown a 2-0 lead (the fourth time this season), and the second time they've gone ahead and won anyway. The big news in the 30-20, 30-19, 26-30, 28-30, 15-9 win was that freshman Weiwen "Wendy" Wang had one of the best matches I've ever seen from a Tiger: 19 kills (0 errors!), a .559 kill %, and a Mizzou record 12 blocks. That's sick! Since moving to middle blocker (where she's undersized at 6'0, but makes up for it with a Jamonte Robinson-like wingspan), she's really taken off. Her play, combined with the efforts of Megan Wilson and Catie Wilson, has allowed the Tigers to begin to move on from the loss of Julianna Klein. Mizzou is now 2-4 in Big 12 play (they've won two in a row), and they get lowly Texas Tech at Hearnes, 2pm on Saturday.
  • According to, W.I.N. Magazine has Mizzou Wrestling #6 in the nation in their preseason poll. Not bad considering they'll be replacing their best wrestler of all-time. A VERY strong recruiting class comes in, and.......yeah, I'm treading on The Beef's territory here. I'll just say they're going to be really good.
Fine, fine...that's enough non-football talk...
  • It's "Cut to the Chase" time once again! Woohoo!
  • We've got a fun disagreement between our two main recruiting services. Inside Mizzou says "Tigers Play Down Importance of Nebraska Game", while PowerMizzou says "Yes, Tigers Admit, It's a Big Game." Good times. They're both right, by the is a SUPER-important game, but it's going to take more than one big win to win the North this year.
  • And while we're linking on PM, Gabe says Mizzou has an opportunity to "catch" Nebraska Saturday. He makes a good point, though tradition and history still matter...and as long as NU is doing just well enough to continue selling out that giant stadium of theirs, they've probably got a 'bigger' program than we do.
  • And while we're linking to IM, here's a Nebraska article talking about NU's preparations for handling Mizzou.
  • Dave Matter has a nice feature on Tony Temple's development from moody and inconsistent to...well, not moody and inconsistent. Matter also goes "Inside the Numbers" on Nebraska.
  • Mike Dearmond features Van Alexander, making his first Big 12 start on Saturday after a couple of injury-plagued seasons. My 'Beyond the Box Score' pieces really don't like Van very's to hoping he has a career game Saturday.
  • Vahe Gregorian, fresh off a nice Chase Daniel piece, decided he needs to be fair and balanced, I guess. Here's his piece on Sam Keller. Meanwhile, Graham Watson takes a look at the Mizzou offense and its week-to-week wrinkles.
  • Finally, Pinkel says, "No rushing the field!" I agree with him. You don't rush the field for beating a team ranked lower than you.


Nebraska 2005 Highlights


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mizzou-Nebraska Redux: 2003 (Part Three)

Bye-bye Blackshirts
Missouri brings an end to misery vs. Nebraska.

By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune's staff
Published Sunday, October 12, 2003

On what was labeled across the nation as "Separation Saturday," Missouri finally settled its long and ugly divorce.

The Big Red pain in the Tigers’ backside for a quarter of a century was removed with Missouri’s 41-24 victory over Nebraska.

For the first time since Missouri spoiled Nebraska’s national-championship dreams in 1978, the Tigers beat their neighbors to the northwest. As parts of the sellout crowd of 68,349 spilled onto Faurot Field to topple the goal posts, Missouri players celebrated something that had never happened in their lifetimes. MU had lost 24 consecutive games to the Cornhuskers.

"That’s what makes this so special," said linebacker James Kinney, one of many heroes for the Tigers. "This was a win for all the fans that have been waiting for this for 20-something years. And it’s for all the players that played before us."

In beating the previously unbeaten and 10th-ranked Cornhuskers (5-1, 1-1 Big 12), the Tigers (5-1, 1-1) beat a top-10 team for the first time since beating No. 9 Mississippi State in 1981.

Coming two weeks after suffering a demoralizing loss to rival Kansas — a loss that brought heavy criticism down on Gary Pinkel for Missouri’s conservative offensive approach — the Tigers dipped deep into their playbook and played with a fearlessness rarely seen this season.

"We haven’t been playing with our hair on fire all season, and that’s the way I want to play," Pinkel said. "I told my team after losing to Kansas, ‘When you’re ranked and predicted to win, and you lose to the biggest team on your schedule, bullets are going to fly. And they should.’ "

The biggest bullets that flew yesterday were passes thrown by Tigers not named Brad Smith. The preseason All-Big 12 quarterback played perhaps the most complete game of his career — totaling 350 yards of offense — but it was a pass by his backup that gave the Tigers the lead for good.

With 11:21 left in the fourth quarter, and Nebraska leading 24-21, Missouri lined up for a routine, game-tying 34-yard field goal for Mike Matheny. But holder Sonny Riccio, MU’s backup quarterback, took the snap, sprinted to the right and looked for his primary target, Clint Matthews. But Matthews was covered, so Riccio lofted a pass to Victor Sesay in the end zone.

"Once I threw it, I knew it was good," Riccio said.

On a play strikingly similar to Oklahoma’s fake field goal that stunned the Tigers in the same end zone last season, Sesay hauled in the 14-yard TD. And with two more Smith touchdown runs, the Tigers cruised against the 7-point favorite Huskers.

"I told Sonny before the game to keep his arm warm," Pinkel said. "And it worked, so it was a great call."

"We knew it had been so long since we beat Nebraska," Riccio said, "so we just wanted to attack every chance we had."

An MU team that was criticized for rarely throwing deep through its first five games didn’t hesitate attacking the Huskers’ secondary early. The Tigers attempted passes on eight of their first 11 plays from scrimmage.

But after two rare interceptions — his first since last year’s season finale — Smith became Missouri’s most dangerous wide receiver. On a play called "Diamond Throwback Screen" — a play the MU installed after losing to KU and practiced several times last week — the Tigers lined up three receivers in a bunch formation on the right-hand side. Smith sent tailback Damien Nash in motion to the right and threw a lateral to Darius Outlaw behind the wall of blockers on the right. Outlaw fired back, hitting Smith in the left flat with four linemen and half a field of FieldTurf between him the end zone. Smith cruised in for the 47-yard score, giving MU a 14-7 lead with 10:57 left in the second quarter.It was Smith’s first career touchdown catch and the first touchdown pass for Outlaw, who is a former quarterback, since 2001.

With inspired play from a resurgent defense, the Tigers silenced Nebraska’s option offense in the fourth quarter and forced Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord to do what he does worst: throw deep. First, Kinney sacked Lord on third-and-11, forcing Lord to commit the Huskers’ fourth fumble of the night. Missouri rover Dedrick Harrington scooped up the loose ball on Nebraska’s 9-yard line. Four plays later, Riccio hit Sesay in the end zone on the fake field goal.

After a Nebraska punt, Missouri took a 10-point lead on Smith’s 1-yard bootleg run into the end zone.

After defensive end Zach Ville intercepted a pass and returned it 39 yards, Smith needed just two plays to score his fourth touchdown, a 9-yard draw up the middle.

Smith’s four touchdowns — three running, one receiving — tied an MU single-game record held by four former Tigers.

Smith’s night didn’t start out so great. On MU’s first possession, he overthrew Sean Coffey and was intercepted by free safety Josh Bullocks. Following a 6-yard touchdown run by Zack Abron and a fumbled Nebraska kickoff return, Smith threw his second interception, tossing an intended screen to linebacker Demorrio Williams.

But as the fourth quarter began, Smith and the Missouri offense picked apart the nation’s No. 1 defense. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Smith turned a third-and-4 quarterback keeper into a 39-yard sprint to the end zone.

He finished with 123 rushing yards, completed 13 of 27 passes for 180 yards and added the 47-yard catch.

Missouri plays at No. 1 Oklahoma next week, but after a gutsy and historic performance in front of a packed Memorial Stadium, the Tigers savored something that hasn’t happened in 25 years.

"We talked all week about just letting go," center A.J. Ricker said. "It’s amazing how much better you can play when you just let go and attack."


When you finally come to, this will still be documented

By JOE WALLJASPER Tribune sports editor
Published Sunday, October 12, 2003

I’m going to take this nice and slow because, chances are, your eyes are bloodshot and your head is pounding. It’s possible that your car is overturned and smoldering on Ninth Street.

But trust me, what you might more or less remember about last night really happened. The Missouri football team beat Nebraska 41-24.

Twenty-five years after their last victory over the Cornhuskers, the Tigers took out their frustrations with a vengeance.

"I’ve been a little bit disappointed in our team all year," Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said. "It just seemed like we weren’t playing on all cylinders. They were trying hard, but it just seemed that players were more concerned about making mistakes than playing good."

Pinkel’s standard facial expression on the sideline is the grimace of a man who could stand a larger pair of briefs. He is, by admission, someone who abhors turnovers and penalties. And throughout most of the first half of the season, his team had played mistake-free but robotic football.

The restrained Tigers played well enough to win the first four games but bottomed out in a 35-14 loss to Kansas two weeks ago. Even Brad Smith, who as a freshman was a creative genius with the ball in his hands, had become an ordinary player, dinking short passes and struggling to find running room.

Something had to change. It changed last night against the 10th-ranked Cornhuskers.

Missouri threw caution to the wind and threw the ball downfield. Smith caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Darius Outlaw. The Tigers ran a reverse on a kickoff return. And then came the mother of all gutsy calls, the one that unquestionably required Pinkel to go up a few sizes on his underwear.

Trailing 24-21 in the fourth quarter, facing a fourth-and-goal from the 14-yard line, it was an obvious field goal situation. But just as Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops did to Missouri last year, Pinkel elected to call a fake. On a play designed by tight ends coach Bruce Walker, holder Sonny Riccio rolled right and lofted a perfect pass over Nebraska defender T.J. Hollowell and into the hands of tight end Victor Sesay in the end zone.

Sold-out Faurot Field went bonkers, and the Tigers smelled blood. They added two more touchdowns before the goal posts came down and the party started in earnest.

"We hadn’t beaten them in 25 years," Pinkel said. "We were going to be aggressive in everything we did."

There was plenty of history made. It was Missouri’s first victory over a top-10 team since 1981 and the first over a ranked team since 1997.

The heroes were numerous. Smith gashed the top-ranked defense in the nation for 123 rushing yards, 47 receiving yards and 180 passing yards. He scored four touchdowns. The Missouri offensive line, which included first-time starter Steven Sanchez at tackle, got the better of the Nebraska defensive front. Sean Coffey caught three passes for 59 yards, including a huge third-down grab in the fourth quarter on which he used every bit of his 6-foot-5 frame. And linebacker James Kinney was all over, recovering a fumble and forcing another on a sack.

Most notable, though, was the passion the Tigers showed. Football was fun again.

"I told them a week and a half ago, when we started preparing for this, ‘When is Missouri going to start winning some big games around here?’ " Pinkel said. "There’s a lot of fans out there that this meant an awful lot to, and I’m just happy my players and staff could get it done."

Hope you enjoyed it, Missouri fans. Let’s do it again sometime before 2028.


Cornhuskers drop the ball
Missouri takes advantage of five Nebraska turnovers.

By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Sunday, October 12, 2003

Missouri fans were hoping to avoid the rain showers that were predicted for Columbia last night, but a steady rain that began to fall just after kickoff might have benefited the Tigers early.

Slippery footballs could have been Nebraska’s excuse for its early case of fumbleitis in last night’s 41-24 Missouri win. But when the clouds cleared, the Huskers’ problems didn’t.

Just minutes after setting a Big 12 career record for return yards, Nebraska’s Josh Davis probably wanted to find a poncho and hide. With his 26-yard kickoff return to start the game, Davis passed Colorado’s Ben Kelly to become the conference’s career leader in return yards.

But on his next chance, as the raindrops continued to fall, Davis cost the Cornhuskers their early lead when he fumbled a punt deep in Missouri territory. After a third-down stop by Nebraska’s defense, Brock Harvey sailed a 53-yard punt to Davis inside the 5-yard line, and the usually sure-handed I-back let the ball slip through his hands. James Kinney came up with the recovery.

Much like the Tigers’ first touchdown of the season against Illinois, Missouri needed just 6 yards for its first score, getting a 6-yard run by Zack Abron to tie the Huskers at 7.

Following the touchdown, disaster struck Nebraska’s special teams again. This time it was wide receiver Jake O’Holleran who mishandled Mike Matheny’s kickoff. Nino Williams scooped up the ball for his first of two recoveries in the half.

Nebraska came into the game having fumbled 15 times through five games, and the slippery hands continued in the second quarter. A promising drive was stalled at MU’s 12-yard line when I-back David Horne fumbled after a decent gain up the middle. Kinney forced the turnover, and Williams picked up his second recovery.

In the fourth quarter, quarterback Jammal Lord was sacked by Kinney and fumbled to Dedrick Harrington to set up Missouri’s go-ahead touchdown.

Davis gave the Tigers good field position again on the next drive, fumbling a toss deep into Missouri territory.

● STREAK SNAPPED: Dating back to last season, Missouri’s Brad Smith had attempted 140 passes without an interception. Then he faced the Big 12’s turnover kings and promptly threw two picks in the first half.

On Missouri’s opening drive, on second-and-9, Smith was pressured by Nebraska defensive end Trevor Johnson and overthrew Sean Coffey over the middle. Free safety Josh Bullocks, who led the nation with five interceptions coming into the game, easily caught Smith’s high pass.

Three possessions later, Smith threw his second interception, when outside linebacker Demorrio Williams stepped in front of Darius Outlaw and hauled in the attempted screen.

● HARDLY HARVEY: After a inconsistent start to the season, punter Brock Harvey was demoted to backup status during the week leading up to last night’s game. But it was Harvey that kicked MU’s first four punts, not Todd Gohsler.

That changed after Missouri’s first series of the second half when Harvey’s fourth punt of the game went just 18 yards. On Missouri’s next series, Gohsler made his first punt of the season and pinned the Huskers to their own 3-yard line with a 40-yarder that bounced out of bounds near the goal line. On his next chance, Gohsler shanked the ball for a 25-yarder that gave Nebraska the ball on its 33 yard line.

● HUSKERS HEALED: Three Nebraska starters missed last week’s game against Troy State with injuries: offensive guard Jake Anderson, nose tackle Ryan Bingham and strong safety Philip Bland. Also, center Josh Sewell left the game with a leg injury and was considered questionable to for last night’s game.

Sewell and Anderson were both in the starting lineup but not Bland. Daniel Bullocks, twin brother of starting free safety Josh Bullocks, started in place of Bland.

● NEW-LOOK LINEUP: As expected, Gary Pinkel shook up his starting lineup, including two new starters on defense. Freshman Xzavie Jackson, who broke his foot during the preseason and missed MU’s first four games, started at defensive end for Brian Smith. Jackson made the first tackle of the game, stopping Davis after a 3-yard run.

A.J. Kincade, a sophomore cornerback, made his third career start and first this season, replacing Calvin Washington. Kincade made a key third-down tackle in the first quarter but later limped off the field and was replaced by Washington.

For the Missouri offense, strong tackle Steve Sanchez made his first career start, replacing two-year starter Scott Paffrath.

Freshman wide receiver Brad Ekwerekwu didn’t start but played significantly. He took a reverse from Tyrone Roberson on a kickoff late in the third quarter and returned it 31 yards.

● NEXT UP: It doesn’t get any easier for the Tigers, who play at No. 1 Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) Saturday in Norman, Okla. The Sooners destroyed Texas 65-13 yesterday in Dallas and have won eight straight games dating back to last season. The Big 12 will announce the game’s kickoff time and TV availability today.

Oklahoma has won 14 of the last 15 meetings with Missouri, including the last two: a 37-0 pounding at OU in 1999 and a 31-24 thriller in Columbia last fall. Missouri’s last win against OU came in 1998 - 20-6 in Columbia - during John Blake’s final year before he was replaced by Bob Stoops. Stoops has a 49-9 record in five seasons, including a national championship in 2000.

The Tigers haven’t won at OU since 1966, a streak of 15 straight losses in Norman.

The Sooners are led by quarterback Jason White, who’s an early Heisman Trophy frontrunner after returning from two injury-shortened seasons.

Defensively, the Sooners are loaded with their usual list of All-Americans, including defensive tackle Tommie Harris, linebacker Teddy Lehman and defensive backs Derrick Strait and Brandon Everage.


Illinois State Highlights

UPDATE, 10/3, The Boy: I bumped this down with three lengthy posts, so I'm bumping it back up to make up for it.


Mizzou Links, 10-3-07

So is telling me that Gary Pinkel will be on ESPN's College Football Live today at 2:30...guess I'll try to DVR that...

  • Ha! I've been joking that, while there's no way I can go to the Gator or Holiday Bowls (come on, Cotton), it doesn't matter because we're going to the Fiesta. Well, someone agrees with me now. JINX.
  • Atchison will love this...after taking a look at the topsy-turvy weekend that was the September 29 slate of games, Dave Matter attempts a Big 12 Power Poll...Boss Style. If Dave was a Friend of Sanity before, he's a BFF of Sanity now...oh, and he's got some NU-MU quotes as well.
  • The Missourian has a nice "Martin Rucker coulda gone pro but didn't, and boy has that worked out great" story. The Post-Dispatch contributes a "Rucker is quite a ham" article as well. And then Mike Dearmond has to go pee on our parade by reminding us that Jeff Wolfert has been far from automatic this year. Thanks, Mike. Though he does redeem himself slightly with a summary of MU's 5 best wins over NU. Strange that there's a huge gap between 1978 and 2003...wait a second...oh yeah...
  • Graham Watson discusses the Big 12 on her blog.
  • Last football link: Sunday Morning QB looks at the box scores and reminds us not to get too carried away by South Florida (massively outgained by WVa, which is fine, only it's not a great sign that USF is actually the 6th-best team in the country), Wisconsin (the just-win magic is going to run out at some point), or USC (they outgained Washington 460-190 and lost their #1 slot in the AP poll to an LSU team that looked like ass against Tulane for 30 minutes).
Non-football links...
  • One of's national b-ball recruiting guys takes a look at Mizzou's completed 2008 class. He basically says what we already knew...that these aren't the elitest of elite recruits, but they could be absolutely perfect for Mike Anderson's system. We shall see. The Trib has a nice Keith Ramsey write-up...and Steve Walentik attempts his own 2008 class review on his blog...
  • Three Mizzou Soccer players--Kat Tarr, Kristin Andrighetto, and Kari Adam--received Of the Week awards for last weekend's efforts...
  • Finally, here's the official release for tonight's Mizzou Volleyball game in's live on Fox Sports MW tonight at 7:30, by the way. Woohoo. I'll have to pry the remote away from my wife--she loves Mizzou Volleyball, but she LOVES Bionic Woman...on the other hand, that's what DVR is for. It's time for MU to make a move...they rarely play well in Boulder, but CU's usually better than this.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mizzou-Nebraska: Beyond the Box Score Preview

So I thought I'd try something new here for the 2 nerds who actually read these 'Beyond the Box Score' bits. Since I've entered all the play-by-plays for MU and NU, I thought I'd try to pinpoint some advantages and disadvantages by looking at the categories on which I base my Beyond the Box Score post-game posts. Just makes you a-twitter with anticipation, doesn't it?

Success Rate by Quarter

Missouri (all plays)
Q1 – Missouri 48.8%, Opponents 39.7%
Q2 – Opponents 54.3%, Missouri 51.7%
Q3 – Opponents 52.4%, Missouri 51.3%
Q4 – Missouri 50.0%, Opponents 50.0%
TOTAL – Missouri 50.5%, Opponents 49.8%

Nebraska (all plays)
Q1 – Nebraska 48.2%, Opponents 41.0%
Q2 – Nebraska 53.6%, Opponents 43.8%
Q3 – Nebraska 54.9%, Opponents 42.2%
Q4 – Nebraska 51.4%, Opponents 44.7%
TOTAL – Nebraska 52.1%, Opponents 43.0%

This looks like Nebraska has the edge here until you take out the plays made when the game wasn’t close (i.e. within 16 points or less).

Missouri (close)
Q1 – Missouri 48.8%, Opponents 39.7%
Q2 – Missouri 54.9%, Opponents 44.4%
Q3 – Missouri 65.6%, Opponents 52.4%
Q4 – Missouri 40.9%, Opponents 37.5%
TOTAL – Missouri 51.5%, Opponents 42.1%

Nebraska (close)
Q1 – Nebraska 48.2%, Opponents 41.0%
Q2 – Nebraska 53.6%, Opponents 43.8%
Q3 – Nebraska 53.8%, Opponents 40.3%
Q4 – Nebraska 46.8%, Opponents 46.7%
TOTAL – Nebraska 51.0%, Opponents 42.6%

Other than the fact that NU plays better than Missouri does when the game's not close (which makes sense considering Callahan kept his starters in against USC's third string to make the final score look closer than it was a couple weeks ago), it’s striking to see not only how close the overall numbers are (Missouri is +9.4%, Nebraska +8.4%), but how the game seems to flow the same by quarter.

-- In Q1, MU is +9.1%, NU +7.2.
-- In Q2, MU is +10.5%, NU is +9.8%.
-- Q3 is where the movement takes place—in Q3, MU is +13.2%, NU is +13.5%.
-- In Q4, MU is +3.4%, NU is +0.1%.

What does this mean? Not sure...could mean a lot of things, I guess (sparkling analysis!), but chances are that it means the team who gets off to the more efficient start could be able to dictate the action throughout. Since Memorial Stadium will be pretty psychotic at kickoff, that might say good things about Missouri’s chances.

QB Success Rate

As always, this only looks at when the game was within two possessions.

Chase Daniel – 119 for 229 (52.0%)
Chase Patton – 0 for 1 (0.0%)
TOTAL – 119 for 230 (51.7%)

Sam Keller – 151 for 293 (51.5%)

Even though Keller and Daniel run distinctly different offenses, they run them with almost identical rates of success. Daniel ranks much higher on most lists simply because a lot of Mizzou’s numbers come from passing, while NU is content to run a ton if you’ll let them. The main difference between them, I think, is their propensity for responding to pressure. That comes mostly in sack rate and in turnovers, both of which we’ll discuss in detail later.

Run Success Rate

Earl Goldsmith – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Chase Daniel – 9 for 18 (50.0%)
Jeremy Maclin – 6 for 8 (75.0%)
Martin Rucker – 3 for 5 (60.0%)
Marcus Woods – 2 for 4 (50.0%)
Derrick Washington – 1 for 2 (50.0%)
Tony Temple – 20 for 47 (42.6%)
Jimmy Jackson – 1 for 5 (20.0%)
TOTAL – 43 for 90 (47.8%)
TOTAL, RB’s – 25 for 59 (42.4%)
TOTAL, QB’s – 9 for 18 (50.0%)
TOTAL, WR/TE’s – 9 for 13 (69.2%)

Quentin Castille – 15 for 26 (57.7%)
Cody Glenn – 5 for 9 (55.6%)
Marlon Lucky – 50 for 97 (51.5%)
Roy Helu – 2 for 4 (50.0%)
Sam Keller – 1 for 7 (14.3%)
Terrence Nunn – 0 for 2 (0.0%)
TOTAL – 73 for 145 (50.3%)
TOTAL, RB’s – 72 for 136 (52.9%)
TOTAL, QB’s – 1 for 7 (14.3%)
TOTAL, WR’s – 0 for 2 (0.0%)

In the last three games since Illinois, Temple (17 for 30 (56.7%)) and Daniel (7 for 9 (77.8%)) have seen their numbers skyrocket, but I still give the advantage to Nebraska here. Missouri lines up in more formations, and they set up quite a few direct-snap situations for Maclin, Temple, Rucker, etc., but I don’t think there’s any disagreeing with the fact that NU’s running game is more proven at this stage in the game.

Receiver Success Rate

Greg Bracey – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Jason Ray – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Derrick Washington – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Chase Coffman – 13 for 14 (92.9%)
Jeremy Maclin – 14 for 16 (87.5%)
Tommy Saunders – 6 for 7 (85.7%)
Will Franklin – 12 for 15 (80.0%)
Martin Rucker – 17 for 22 (77.3%)
Jared Perry – 3 for 4 (75.0%)
Tony Temple – 2 for 3 (66.7%)
Danario Alexander – 5 for 9 (55.6%)
Jimmy Jackson – 1 for 2 (50.0%)
TOTAL – 76 for 95 (80.0%)
TOTAL, WR’s – 42 for 53 (79.2%)
TOTAL, TE’s – 30 for 36 (83.3%)
TOTAL, RB’s – 4 for 6 (66.7%)

Nate Swift – 14 for 14 (100.0%)
Cody Glenn (RB) – 2 for 2 (100.0%)
Thomas Lawson (FB) – 2 for 2 (100.0%)
J.B. Phillips (TE) – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Dan Erickson – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Quentin Castille (RB) – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Roy Helu (RB) – 1 for 1 (100.0%)
Maurice Purify – 14 for 15 (93.3%)
Terrence Nunn – 13 for 15 (86.7%)
Sean Hill (TE) – 6 for 7 (85.7%)
Frantz Hardy – 4 for 5 (80.0%)
Hunter Teafatiller (TE) – 2 for 3 (66.7%)
Todd Peterson – 3 for 5 (60.0%)
Marlon Lucky (RB) – 14 for 24 (58.3%)
TOTAL – 78 for 96 (81.3%)
TOTAL, WR’s – 49 for 55 (89.1%)
TOTAL, TE’s – 9 for 11 (81.8%)
TOTAL, RB’s – 20 for 30 (66.7%)

A lot of the difference in numbers here comes from different offensive philosophies. NU rarely throws short to their WR’s, instead dumping off to their RB’s 4x more than Mizzou (6.0 per game to MU’s 1.5). Meanwhile, both teams’ TE’s are used effectively...the glaring difference, of course, being that Mizzou’s TE’s catch 9 passes per game (with the score within 16 points), while NU’s catch just 2.2 passes per game.

The wildcard here, of course, is that Maurice Purify might not play Saturday since he is in California awaiting the funeral of his girlfriend, who died in a car accident last weekend. Even if he does play, there’s no telling where his mind will be, as he was still recovering from the loss of his brother about a month ago. That’s as swift a reminder that there’s more to life than football if I ever saw one.

Line Yards and Sack Rate (OFFENSE)

In my line stats discussion from a couple weeks ago, I looked at Line Yards and Sack Rates to get a decent analysis of lineplay. Until something better comes along, that’s what I’ll continue to use.


2007 Missouri average: 3.09 yds/carry (91 carries, 281.6 yards)
2006 Missouri average (in conference): 2.77 yds/carry
2006 Big 12 average: 2.86 yds/carry

2007 Nebraska average: 2.63 yds/carry (148 carries, 389.3 yards)
2006 Nebraska average (in conference): 3.15 yds/carry
2006 Big 12 average: 2.86 yds/carry


2007 Missouri rate: 0.9% (1 sack, 106 attempts)
2006 Missouri rate (in conference): 4.6%
2006 Big 12 rate: 5.5%

2007 Nebraska rate: 1.9% (2 sacks, 108 attempts)
2006 Nebraska rate (in conference): 8.2%
2006 Big 12 rate: 5.5%

These numbers will almost certainly go up as conference season progresses, but give Mizzou the edge so far.


2007 Missouri rate: 3.0% (1 sack, 33 attempts)
2006 Missouri rate (in conference): 5.2%
2006 Big 12 rate: 8.1%

2007 Nebraska rate: 5.0% (2 sacks, 40 attempts)
2006 Nebraska rate (in conference): 8.9%
2006 Big 12 rate: 8.1%

This surprised me a bit, simply because when I’ve seen Sam Keller play, he’s always seemed to freeze up a bit when someone gets some pressure on him. More often than not, he seems to rush his delivery and throw a pretty inaccurate ball...but I still thought he was getting sacked more than this. Either way, though, Missouri has a slight advantage in all O-line categories. Some of that can be explained by the schedule (Illinois’ D-line is good, but it’s safe to say that USC’s is better), but not all of it.

Line Yards and Sack Rate (DEFENSE)


2007 Missouri average: 3.10 yds/carry (72 carries, 223.4 yards)
2006 Missouri average (in conference): 3.19 yds/carry
2006 Big 12 average: 2.86 yds/carry

2007 Nebraska average: 2.60 yds/carry (154 carries, 401 yards)
2006 Nebraska average (in conference): 2.59 yds/carry
2006 Big 12 average: 2.86 yds/carry


2007 Missouri rate: 6.7%
2006 Missouri rate (in conference): 7.8%
2006 Big 12 rate: 5.5%

2007 Nebraska rate: 4.4%
2006 Nebraska rate (in conference): 3.7%
2006 Big 12 rate: 5.5%


2007 Missouri rate: 3.1%
2006 Missouri rate (in conference): 9.8%
2006 Big 12 rate: 8.1%

2007 Nebraska rate: 0.0%
2006 Nebraska rate (in conference): 9.3%
2006 Big 12 rate: 8.1%

I was going to use this as evidence that Missouri has been holding back in the blitz department—you’re not supposed to have a worse sack rate on third downs (a blitzing down) than you do on first and second. However...what’s Nebraska’s excuse? Playing a team like USC, they had no reason to keep some tricks up their sleeves in anticipation of the Missouri game. In close games, they have yet to record a sack on third or fourth down...something made even more astounding considering they played Bret “I get sacked every other time I drop back to pass” Meyer last week, and the game was actually close for a while. This does somewhat explain how Ball State racked up 400 passing yards on them.

Hmm...Missouri's leading the nation in third down efficiency...Nebraska doesn't sack QBs on third down...hmm...

Defensive Success Rate


Defensive Line
Leader: Lorenzo Williams – 9.0 tackles, 9.0 successful (100.0%)
TOTAL – 25.5 tackles, 17.5 successful (68.6%) (2006 Big 12 average: 71.4%)

Leader: Brock Christopher – 16.5 tackles, 11.0 successful (66.7%)
TOTAL – 37.5 tackles, 21.5 successful (57.3%) (2006 Big 12 average: 57.1%)

Defensive Backs
Leader: Pig Brown – 15.5 tackles, 6.0 successful (38.7%)
TOTAL – 56.0 tackles, 15.0 successful (26.8%) (2006 Big 12 average: 28.2%)

% of plays made by...
Defensive Line: 25.5 of 119.0 (21.4%) (2006 Big 12 average: 26.0%)
Linebackers: 37.5 of 119.0 (31.5%) (2006 Big 12 average: 33.1%)
Defensive Backs: 56.0 of 119.0 (47.1%) (2006 Big 12 average: 40.9%)


Defensive Line
Leader: Ndamukong Suh – 15.5 tackles, 13.0 successful (83.9%)
TOTAL – 52.5 tackles, 39.5 successful (75.2%) (2006 Big 12 average: 71.4%)

Leader: Corey McKeon – 15.5 tackles, 10.5 successful (67.7%)
TOTAL – 78.5 tackles, 44 successful (56.1%) (2006 Big 12 average: 57.1%)

Defensive Backs
Leader: Larry Asante – 16.5 tackles, 5.5 successful (33.3%)
TOTAL – 63.5 tackles, 15.0 successful (23.6%) (2006 Big 12 average: 28.2%)

% of plays made by...
Defensive Line: 52.5 of 194.5 (27.0%) (2006 Big 12 average: 26.0%)
Linebackers: 78.5 of 194.5 (40.4%) (2006 Big 12 average: 33.1%)
Defensive Backs: 63.5 of 194.5 (32.6%) (2006 Big 12 average: 40.9%)

For the 2006 Big 12 games I compiled, I’ve begun to compare some of these ‘success rates’ to actual success, i.e. wins, total yards, points, etc. I was wondering if it was more important for a unit like the D-line to be making plays, period, or if it was more important that they have a high success rate. I suspected, too, that you could tell a lot by what % of plays the secondary is forced to make. While that was somewhat important, by far the biggest indicator of success was Defensive Line success rate. To this extent, players like MU’s Zo Williams and NU’s Ndamukong Suh have been playing as well as you can play—Williams averaging 2.3 ‘successful’ plays a game and Suh averaging 2.6.

As a whole, however, Mizzou’s D-line has failed to make a strong level of successful plays—their 68.6% rate is too low, especially compared to NU’s 75.2%. However, anybody who watched the NU-USC game knows why we assume these stats tell the whole story. NU’s D-line repeatedly got blown up, leading to lanes so big that The Beef or I could have run for 100 yards against the Blackshirts.

In other words, neither D-line has been, shall we say, overly effective so far.

The other main problem for these two teams is that their secondaries have not made enough strong plays either...aside from the turnover department anyway. Which leads us to...

Turnover Costliness

For this stat, I’m looking at all turnovers period, not just those taking place when the game is close. And once again, here is how I measure “costliness” (also once again: if you can think of something more effective, please pass it along):

Field position: 3 points if the turnover took place between the goal line and the 20, 2 points between the 20 and the 40, 1 point between the 40s.

Game status: 2 points if the game was within 16 points or less, 1 if it was within 24 points of less, 0 if the margin was higher than that.


Offense: 7 turnovers, 23 total points = 3.29 average
Defense: 11 takeaways, 39 total points = 3.55 average

So they’re +4 on turnover margin and +16 on turnover costliness.

Offense: 12 turnovers, 45 points = 3.75 average
Defense: 10 takeaways, 37 points = 3.70 average

So they’re -2 on turnover margin and -8 on turnover costliness.

In all, Missouri turns the ball over less than Nebraska, and their T/O’s are less costly overall. They also force more turnovers than Nebraska, but thanks to Bo Ruud’s 2 INT’s for TD, NU’s takeaways are worth a little more.

Statistical MIPs

Two of the main themes that are emerging here are third downs and turnovers. You could say that pretty much every game is decided by third downs and turnovers, but it appears to be even more true here. With that in mind, here are the MIPs (Most Important Players...not Minors in Possession) for Saturday:

Missouri Offense: Chase Daniel. Duh. He's held onto the ball a bit too long and forced some passes a bit too tightly into traffic the last two games, and while my theory on that has simply been that he was testing his what he can and can't do...he needs to be on his game Saturday. If he's making quick decisions and not forcing throws into traffic, MU should throw the ball at will.

Missouri Defense: I'm going to say Sean Weatherspoon. If we have indeed been holding back in the blitz department, then I'd say Weatherspoon is the most likely weapon to be unleashed Saturday. If we get pressure on Keller on third downs (without letting Marlon Lucky wander unabated into the flat for screen pass after screen pass), then the game is ours.

Nebraska Offense: Marlon Lucky. Nate Swift has been the secret weapon, but Marlon Lucky makes or breaks the offense. In just five games, Lucky has touched the ball 121 times with the score within two possessions, 97 on the ground and 24 in the air. He's been getting the tough, when-necessary yards, and if he's not allowed to make an impact in the game, then NU's toast.

Nebraska Defense: Bo Ruud. He is the defense's biggest playmaker. He disappears for series at a time, then he pops up to make back-to-back hits or, in the case of the last two games, score on a pick six. Plus, he had a huge deflected INT of Chase Daniel last year as Mizzou was beginning to put the pieces together offensively. He is the biggest potential disrupting force on the NU D.


Mizzou-Nebraska Redux: 2003 (Part Two)

Twenty-five years and counting
MU’s last victory over Huskers has become pleasant memory.

“I’ll gladly trade every single yard in for just one more touchdown. That’s really all I have to say. That’s it. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. We got beat.” — Nebraska running back Rick Berns after Missouri’s 35-31 win in Lincoln, Neb., on Nov. 18, 1978

By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Saturday, October 11, 2003

Nebraska senior running back Rick Berns sat at his locker inside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., and sobbed. On the final day of the regular season, he had just become Nebraska’s all-time leading rusher with 255 yards against Missouri — the most any player had ever totaled against the Tigers. He never had a game that started so promising end so terribly.

Berns’ first carry went for 82 yards, giving Nebraska a touchdown just 18 seconds into the game.

His last carry went for minus-1 yard, all but sealing Missouri’s third straight win in Lincoln. When Tom Sorley’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete, the Tigers had officially spoiled the Cornhuskers’ national-championship dreams, winning 35-31.

“They just beat us,” Berns said afterward. “I really can’t say anything else. Missouri just gave a super effort.”

His tears represent the last wept in sadness by a Cornhusker after playing Missouri. Twenty-five years later, the Tigers are still seeking their first win over Nebraska since that November afternoon.

As Warren Powers, the architect of that day’s upset, and several of his former Missouri players reunite today at Memorial Stadium, the Tigers will attempt another stab at breaking the skid. Since Missouri’s last win against the Cornhuskers, the Tigers have had five head coaches: Powers (1-6 against NU), Woody Widenhofer (0-4), Bob Stull (0-5), Larry Smith (0-7) and Gary Pinkel (0-2). Nebraska, meanwhile, has won three national championships.

A quarter of a century after beating Nebraska, his alma mater and the program he helped coach for eight seasons, Powers can hardly believe the drought continues.

“The rivalry between Missouri and Nebraska, even in Nebraska’s heyday, was always huge,” Powers said this week from his home in Chesterfield. “When I was at Nebraska and we played Missouri, you knew you were in for a dogfight. … I didn’t think it would never happen again.”

Phil Bradley, Missouri’s quarterback that day, would never have thought 25 years would pass before the Tigers beat Nebraska again.

“If you look back at history, that was the” third “straight time that Missouri had beaten Nebraska in Lincoln,” Bradley said. “Just looking at that alone, you would have thought we would have done it again.”

Bradley talks about the 1978 season, Powers’ first at Missouri, as one that could have been for the Tigers. After beating No. 5 Notre Dame in the opener, Missouri started 2-2, with the losses coming against No. 1 Alabama and No. 1 Oklahoma. MU won its next three games, but a shot at the Big Eight title was lost with back-to-back losses against Colorado and Oklahoma State. Sitting at 5-4, a promising season seemed lost.

“We blew a 27-7 lead against Colorado well into the third quarter, and we played poorly at Stillwater,” Bradley said. “Obviously, looking back, if we don’t let those games get away, we probably would have won the Big Eight Conference. But it is what it is.”

For Missouri to earn its first bowl invitation since 1973, the Tigers knew they had to beat Nebraska on the road — just like they had done in ’68, ’74 and ’76.

“We had blown two games earlier in the year,” Powers said. “But we screwed that up, so we knew to get to a bowl game, we had to win.”

Nebraska, meanwhile, came into the regular-season finale ranked No. 2 with a 9-1 record. Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers had just beaten Oklahoma and seemed poised for an Orange Bowl berth against Penn State to determine the national champion.

“Normally during the Big Eight season, Oklahoma and Nebraska played the last game of the year,” Bradley said. “For whatever reason, we got Nebraska after they had played Oklahoma. And by beating them, we ended up costing them the national championship.”

But it didn’t look so promising from the start on a day when the wind chill was close to zero. Berns took a pitch from Sorley and sped around left tackle for 82 yards. Just 18 seconds had ticked off the clock.

“When Berns ran right by us on the sidelines, I said, ‘Holy cow!’ I knew how tough it can get against Nebraska,” said Powers, who was a Nebraska assistant from 1969-76. “But we settled down, did our things and kept our poise.”

The Tigers came right back with James Wilder’s 9-yard touchdown run. Later in the first quarter, a woeful Missouri punt — some things never change — gave Nebraska prime field position, and Sorley soon hit Junior Miller with a 2-yard touchdown pass.

A goal-line stand by the Tigers forced Nebraska to settle for a Billy Todd field goal in the second quarter, giving the Huskers a 17-7 lead. With six minutes left in the half, Bradley hit Kellen Winslow for a 14-yard touchdown, cutting Nebraska’s lead to 17-14.

Berns opened the second half with his second touchdown — a 2-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Behind the trinity of Bradley, Winslow and Wilder, the Tigers answered again.

Wilder broke off a 20-yard run, followed by back-to-back 16-yard passes from Bradley to Winslow. On first-and-goal from the 1, Wilder scored his second of four touchdowns.

Then the Tigers’ defensive hero, linebacker Chris Garlich, struck a devastating blow. He picked off Sorley in Nebraska territory, setting up Wilder’s 4-yard touchdown run that gave MU its first lead at 28-24.

Garlich earned Big Eight defensive-player-of-the-week-honors for his 21-tackle effort. Coming into the game, Garlich was livid at his exclusion from the All-Big Eight team.

“I was a little fired up,” he told the Tribune that day. “We had a couple of letdowns and a couple of bad games. And that damn Big Eight team came out. I don’t think I’m the fifth-best linebacker in the Big Eight. So I felt like I had to prove something.”

Garlich proved his point later in the game.

After Wilder’s third touchdown, Nebraska struck again. Backup quarterback Tim Hager scored on a 4-yard keeper to retake the lead 31-28.

A botched MU handoff gave Nebraska the ball, but with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers took over with a chance to regain the lead. Starting at their own 26, the Tigers used a mix of Wilder runs and Bradley passes to march toward the end zone. Bradley hit Winslow for a 33-yard gain down to Nebraska’s 15. Wilder did the rest, needing two plays to score his fourth touchdown. He memorably bowled over a Nebraska linebacker on his way to the end zone on a 7-yard score.

Then came Garlich’s moment. With two minutes left, the Huskers entered Missouri territory but faced a crucial third-and-3. Sorley handed off to Berns, who was quickly smashed by Garlich for a loss of a yard. Sorley’s fourth-down pass sailed over Tim Smith.

“If we didn’t stop them, we just couldn’t come back to Columbia,” defensive end Wendell Ray said. “It would have been a disgrace to our defense. There were no ifs about it. We had to stop them.”

Wilder finished with 181 rushing yards and was named the Big Eight offensive player of the week. Winslow was equally fantastic, catching six passes for 132 yards.

The Huskers still earned a trip to the Orange Bowl, where they lost to Oklahoma in a rematch. Nebraska finished the season ranked No. 8.

Missouri came back to Columbia with three bowl invitations to choose from. The Tigers picked the Liberty Bowl, where they beat LSU 20-15. Powers’ teams went on to play in four more bowl games. But never again would they beat Nebraska.

The Tigers came close, losing by 10 points or less in five of the next seven meetings. Then came the late ’80s and ’90s when Nebraska poundings became more customary.

“The rivalry’s probably still there, but it was really big back then,” Powers said. “It was always a very physical, emotional game. You always knew when it was Nebraska week. You had a little zip in your practices. It was the same way with Kansas. It wasn’t like you were playing Colorado or someone else. It was always something really special.”

Tonight, Powers, along with several of his former players will be honored during the first half, while MU will be either continuing its misery or recapturing the magic of ’78.


Failure is not an option
Tigers focus on stopping NU pet play.

By JOE WALLJASPER Tribune sports editor
Published Saturday, October 11, 2003

Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has an unorthodox pick as the All-Big 12 Conference tailback — Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord.

“He could start for anybody in the conference at tailback,” Eberflus said. “He’s a really good runner. He’s a strong guy.”

Lord’s critics would suggest that he not only runs like a tailback, he throws like one, too. True, Lord presides over the only passing game ranked lower than Missouri’s in the Big 12, but he’s been good enough to lead Nebraska to a 5-0 start and a No. 10 national ranking.

Although there was much preseason talk about the Cornhuskers opening up the offense a bit under new offensive coordinator Barney Cotton, it hasn’t worked out that way. They rank sixth nationally in rushing (241 per game) and 114th in passing (111 per game).

“They’re pretty consistent with what they’ve done in the past — the power game, some one-back, the counter zone where they fake to the back and the quarterback keeps it,” Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said. “Everybody does a little bit of that. They run the option well.”

Last year, Lord gained 1,412 yards rushing — including 98 against MU — but he isn’t on that fast a pace this season with 340 yards. He has plenty of help in the backfield, however, with I-back Josh Davis (417 yards) and bruising fullback Judd Davies.

“They’re going to bring you smash-mouth football for 60 minutes,” MU outside safety Dedrick Harrington said. “It’s going to be a heck of a dogfight.”

But Nebraska presents more than a physical challenge. The offense may be old-fashioned, but it puts pressure on defenses to play assignment football — or else. The most obvious example is the option play.

“The big thing in the option is you have to have people on their assignments,” Missouri outside safety Jason Simpson said. “You can’t have one guy miss their assignment and then the other ones try to make up for him.”

Simpson said Missouri usually assigns a defensive end or linebacker to the quarterback, an outside safety to cover both the quarterback and then the pitchman and the free safety to the pitchman. But that can vary depending on the offensive formation and defensive call.

“You’ve got to change who has what on the option, and you’ve got to mix it up on how fast you want him to pitch the ball,” Eberflus said. “You’ve got to mix up your responsibilities, because if you stay in the same defense all the time and say, ‘This guy has pitch and this guy has quarterback,’ they’ll scheme you and crack the guy who has whoever, and then they’re off and running.”

The Tigers saw some option against Middle Tennessee State and Kansas — Pinkel said MU defended it poorly against the Blue Raiders and well against the Jayhawks — but those teams don’t compare to Nebraska in option football proficiency.

The option is only part of the Cornhuskers’ running attack, though. Lord is also dangerous on quarterback draws.

“They spread defenses out, kind of like Middle Tennessee did to us,” Simpson said. “They had an open set. We had one linebacker out wide, then you’d have our Mike” linebacker “in the middle and I was back. So essentially we had five people in the box, which isn’t enough to stop the run when you have a lead blocker, too. What Nebraska likes to do is fake it to the running back, and the quarterback takes it up the middle on a draw.”

Although it hasn’t really been the case this season, the play-action pass has traditionally been a valuable weapon that takes advantage of defenses overeager about stopping the run.

“Fake the option down the line, pull the ball back and a receiver that was” crack blocking “takes off,” Eberflus said. “You’ve got to read your keys.”


Tigers grow weary of losing streak vs. Nebraska

By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Saturday, October 11, 2003

Reminded for the umpteenth time that it’s been 25 years since his Missouri Tigers have beaten Nebraska, Darius Outlaw shook his head and groaned.

"When you think about it, that really sucks," Outlaw said earlier this week. "It’s been sooo long. It would be so great to win this game."

Those sentiments have been repeated in Columbia every year since Tom Sorley’s fourth-down pass sailed incomplete on Nov. 18, 1978 - the last time the Tigers beat the Cornhuskers in this once evenly matched rivalry. Before Missouri’s 35-31 win in ’78, Nebraska held just a 37-32-3 advantage in the all-time series.

Since then, of course, there have been a few nailbiters, several blowouts, but always the same Big Red result.

Both coaches agreed past results will be irrelevant in tonight’s 97th meeting between unranked Missouri (4-1, 0-1 Big 12) and No. 10 Nebraska (5-0, 1-0).

"We’re not looking at anything that’s happened in the past," Nebraska’s Frank Solich said. "None of that stuff in the past will be a positive or negative when we line up. It’ll just be something that’s by the wayside."

Said Missouri’s Gary Pinkel: "I’ve only been here two years. That’s as far as I go back."

This was supposed to be the year Nebraska bottomed out, suffering from its archaic offense and too few athletes on defense. Solich gutted half his coaching staff after last season’s 7-7 finish, a move seen by many as a last-ditch effort to save his job.

Instead, Nebraska has cruised to a 5-0 start behind a smothering defense that’s ranked No. 1 nationally and an option running attack that’s been good enough so far. Some Cornhuskers are already talking about representing the North Division in the Big 12 championship game.

"I think the Big 12 North can be ours if we focus on each game and don’t get ahead of ourselves," linebacker T.J. Hollowell said. "We don’t want to look too far down the road, because if we do that, we’ll lose focus and things may not play out like we want them to."

Missouri, meanwhile, was supposed to ride All-Big 12 quarterback Brad Smith to a 5-0 start, challenge Nebraska in a much-anticipated October showdown and possibly supplant the Huskers as North Division contenders. But the Tigers were spanked at Kansas two weeks ago and face an imposing three-game stretch against Nebraska, No. 1 Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

But a season gone astray at Kansas could be salvaged with a victory tonight.

"That hurt," losing to Kansas, Outlaw said. "It hurt a lot."

Said center A.J. Ricker: "We didn’t play very well last week, obviously. It was pretty sad. But we can’t play any worse. We got that out of the way, hopefully."

To break its quarter century of misery, Missouri must revive an offense that collapsed at KU and hasn’t been nearly as prolific as it was last season. The Tigers’ passing game has been powerless at times, requiring the addition of Brad Ekwerekwu, a true freshman wide receiver who wasn’t expected to be needed this season.

"We’ve got the capability to beat any team we play," receiver Thomson Omboga said. "It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. I don’t see no team that can stop our passing offense, even though we really haven’t showed that much yet."

"Last year, I saw how they played" Oklahoma "at their place," Nebraska linebacker Demorrio Williams said. "It’s going to be pretty hostile - really, really rough."

The Tigers face a Nebraska offense that’s averaging a league-best 241 rushing yards per game, led by I-back Josh Davis and quarterback Jammal Lord. For the Huskers, some faces are new, but the offensive formula is the same.

"The thing that stands out about Nebraska’s offense is they know that you know what they’re going to do," Missouri safety David Overstreet said. "And they don’t care if you know or not. They’re going to line up and run it down your throat and try to smash you into the ground. That’s just them. They’re confident."

And with a 24-game winning streak over Missouri, who wouldn’t be?


Mizzou Links, 10-2-07

We'll see how well I can do Links with a cat lying on my left arm...could be interesting...

  • It must be Tuesday...we've got the official MU-NU release, and we've got Media Day quotes! Just about everybody's healthy (including Danario Alexander), the guys have been studying up, Mizzou's at its highest poll position since 1998, Carl Gettis has passed Hardy Ricks, a sellout is a's all starting to come together. Dave Matter has more on Alexander's wrist and the Big 12's North Revival...and of course even more notes on his blog.
  • If you're dying for even more quotes, here's a Pig Brown chat transcript.
  • Like some Mizzou commentary? It's Like Father, Unlike Son! And Graham Watson's Tuesday Musings!
  • The Missourian repeats what's already been said on's probably for the best that we didn't play on Saturday...too many crazy things happened. It also has a nice story on Pinkel's cameo visit at the Columbia Youth Football League.
  • Speaking of nice stories, here's probably the best read of the day: Mike Dearmond's "Pinkel is a Changed Man" feature. Graham Watson has a nice Chase Daniel feature as well.
  • Next week's MU-OU game was apparently knocked out of the 2:30 time slot by...ATM-Tech? It's now got a quite strange 5:30 kickoff. I realize OU lost and all, but that's still a strange move. I mean, OU and MU are the two highest-ranked teams in the conference right now. And if I manage to get down to that game, that will prevent me from going to my favorite BBQ restaurant in the world after the game...BOO!
  • Biggest non-football news: Mizzou Soccer has moved up to #15 in one poll, #16 in another...and #6 in another! It goes without saying that that's Mizzou's highest ever position in any poll.
  • It appears that Mizzou's 2008 basketball recruiting class is now full, as JUCO forward Keith Ramsey has committed.
  • And speaking of Mizzou basketball, I didn't realize that next Friday's (10/12) Mizzou Madness is both a Men's Basketball even and a Women's Basketball event. Pretty cool, I guess.
  • Finally, Mizzou Softball opened its fall schedule by decimating Jefferson College and Butler County CC. Not exactly the roughest of competition, but hey...


Monday, October 1, 2007

Mizzou-Nebraska Redux: 2003 (Part One)

MU faces defensive standouts
Huskers, Sooners are nation’s best.

By Dave Matter of the Tribune’s staff
Published Monday, October 6, 2003

Coming off a miserable game at Kansas - probably the worst of his young career - Missouri quarterback Brad Smith gets to face the nation’s top two ranked defenses in the next two weeks.

First comes the nation’s best, Nebraska, at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The 10th-ranked Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) are yielding just 218 yards per game - 27 yards fewer than Oklahoma, the nation’s No. 2 defense, which Missouri plays Oct. 18.

Under first-year coordinator Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s defense has forced 19 turnovers, four more than it forced all last season. The Huskers rank in the nation’s top 10 in both passing and running defense.

Oh yeah, and Missouri (4-1, 0-1) hasn’t beaten Nebraska since 1978, five years before Smith was born.

Those lofty rankings - plus Smith’s woeful day against the Jayhawks - haven’t shaken the sophomore quarterback, MU Coach Gary Pinkel said.

"He’s just dying to play again," Pinkel said during today’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. "He shakes things off pretty good. He’s done that since he’s been here."

Against Kansas, Smith produced less than 100 yards of total offense for the first time in his career, passing for just 62 and running for 33. The Missouri offensive staff has spent the last two weeks reviewing film and devising ways to revive an offense that has struggled to consistently move the ball.

Smith has completed 66.9 percent of his passes, but Missouri still ranks 11th in the Big 12 in passing offense, averaging less than 6 yards per attempt.

"We’re just not getting the plays, the perimeter plays, and we’re just not executing at the level we need to," Pinkel said. "We’re not even close. I think we don’t ever just look at the players and say, ‘We have to play better.’ Certainly we have to, but we have to coach better."


Revitalized Tigers say they’re ready for ’Huskers

By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Giving their first interviews since suffering the first loss of the season, the Missouri football players barely resembled the deflated Tigers that slogged out of the Kansas locker room 10 days ago. Maybe that’s because a sellout crowd and No. 10 Nebraska and its 24-game winning streak against Missouri are coming to Memorial Stadium for a nationally televised game Saturday night.

The Tigers (4-1, 0-1 Big 12) returned to practice last week with a vigor not seen all season.

"Intense, very intense," free safety David Overstreet said of Missouri’s mood this week. "The week of practice during the bye week, every day it was like we were playing Pop Warner football. We were just out there having fun. We were screaming on the sidelines, just happy to be back on the field. We were just trying to get things together, and we’ve got it, man."

"Everyone is more enthused and getting excited about playing again," cornerback Michael Harden said. "I feel very good about this team this week. I’m seeing more energy this week than … probably since I’ve been here."

Missouri’s players enjoyed a few days off early last week, and most agreed the postgame blues had waned by last Tuesday.

"It takes a couple days," offensive tackle Scott Paffrath said. "They don’t want us to dwell on it too long, but when you lose, it sucks. It’s hard to get back out there. You just have to focus on what you’re doing wrong and move on."

"Certainly, I think with a bye, you hold on to it a little bit more," MU Coach Gary Pinkel said. "There’s a certain point, which I’m trying to mature as a 51-year-old, that you let something go. Any wasted thoughts or if you’re thinking about the past has absolutely nothing to do with making you better. You’ve got to evaluate and go on, and I think our players have done that."

For the offense, the Tigers have suffered miserably passing the ball. Quarterback Brad Smith owns one of the nation’s best completion percentages (66.9), but Missouri is averaging a measly 163 passing yards per game. Only 13 teams are producing fewer.

While acknowledging the coaching staff needs to improve its play-calling, Pinkel vowed against making a major overhaul.

"When you have problems, you just keep working through them," he said. "You analyze everything you’re doing, and you try to make it better. You try to keep it positive, which we are, I think. Eventually, you’ve just got to start making some plays and making the whole thing work.

"I’ve been here before. I don’t like being here, but the big thing is to solve the problem."

"Coach Pinkel doesn’t change," wide receiver Darius Outlaw said. "We go week in, week out doing the same things we do. We just put in different plays, and now we just have to execute them."

● HEALTHY RETURN: The offense should get a boost with the return of tight end J.D. McCoy, who missed the Kansas game with a sprained knee suffered against Middle Tennessee State the previous week. It marked the first time the senior missed a game in his four-year career.

"It was terrible," McCoy said. "I felt so helpless losing to KU. But I’m just glad to be back this week."

McCoy started running for the first time Friday and returned to practice Sunday. He said he fully expects to be in the lineup Saturday.

McCoy already has set career highs for receptions (eight), receiving yards (89) and touchdown catches (two).

"I’ll definitely play," he said.

● HURT HUSKERS: The Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0) have had their own injury problems. Strong safety Philip Bland, nose tackle Ryan Bingham and offensive guard Jake Andersen missed Saturday’s 30-0 win over Troy State. Nebraska Coach Frank Solich hasn’t disclosed the severity of the injuries, but Bingham was spotted on the sidelines Saturday on crutches. Bland and Andersen were injured the previous week against Southern Mississippi. Solich has said he expects all three to return Saturday.

● TAKEAWAY TALK: Saturday’s 97th meeting between Missouri and Nebraska pits the nation’s least charitable offense against one of the stingiest defenses. Missouri’s two turnovers - two lost fumbles against Eastern Illinois - are the fewest committed by any team in the nation. Only two other Division I-A teams have not thrown an interception, Syracuse and Texas.

The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, have forced 19 turnovers through five games, the third-best mark in the nation. The Blackshirt defense forced five turnovers against both Oklahoma State and Southern Mississippi and four against Troy State.

"Certainly," Pinkel said, "those numbers might represent the Nebraska of old."

Nebraska linebacker Barrett Ruud has tied the school season record with three fumble recoveries, a record he now shares with his father, Tom Ruud, who played at Nebraska in the 1970s. Free safety Josh Bullocks leads the nation with five interceptions, already surpassing Nebraska’s team leader from last season, who had four interceptions.


Blackshirts return to dominating ways
Huskers’ top-ranked defense invades Missouri.

By DAVE MATTER of the Tribune’s staff
Published Friday, October 10, 2003

Lifelong Nebraska fan Barrett Ruud describes last season as "the worst year I’ve ever been through." Ruud not only witnessed Nebraska’s defense crumble, he experienced it.

The third-generation Cornhusker started all 14 games at middle linebacker last season. The vaunted Blackshirt defense dipped from mediocre to just plain bad as Nebraska finished 7-7 - its first nonwinning season in 40 years.

Defensive coordinator Craig Bohl was fired and replaced by Bo Pelini, a 36-year-old journeyman NFL assistant with no previous ties to Nebraska. Pelini delivered a clear message to the Cornhuskers.

"He had a pretty simple approach," said Ruud, a Lincoln, Neb., native whose dad, two uncles and great-grandfather played for Nebraska. "He told us it was a clean slate. Nothing that happened before mattered. There were no starters, and he told us we had to play harder than ever. We thought we were playing pretty hard, but you don’t really know how hard you’re capable of playing until you really push yourself."

Presto! The low-key Pelini has the Blackshirts ripping through offenses like Montecore, the 600-pound tiger that attacked one half of Siegfried and Roy last week.

The 10th-ranked Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) enter tomorrow night’s game at Missouri (4-1, 0-1) with the nation’s top-ranked defense. Pelini has produced such a dramatic turnaround in Lincoln, he’s already being mentioned as a head-coaching candidate for a few teams in 2004.

"This doesn’t really surprise me," Ruud said of the Blackshirts’ success. "We were a decent defense last year - we just didn’t show it in some big games. We’ve always had good athletes. We’re just developing better technique and gaining more experience. We’re learning how to play better, and that makes a big difference."

With virtually the same defensive personnel from a year ago, the Huskers are allowing just 218.6 yards and 7.6 points per game, compared to 361.9 and 23.9 last season, respectively.

Nebraska has forced 19 turnovers after totaling just 21 last season. Last week’s 30-0 win over Troy State was Nebraska’s first shutout in three years.

What’s the difference? Pelini installed more zone coverages and dropped Nebraska’s traditional man defense.

The system has produced a star in weakside linebacker Demorrio Williams, who lines up at defensive end on third-down passing situations.

In a league stocked with stars at outside linebacker - Texas’ Derrick Johnson, Kansas State’s Josh Buhl and Oklahoma’s Teddy Lehman - Williams (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) has arguably been the Big 12 defensive player of the year through the first third of the season. He leads the Huskers in tackles (42), has forced and recovered two fumbles and has 5½ sacks.

"Whoa, that’s like having a safety at linebacker," Oklahoma State offensive guard Sam Mayes said after Nebraska’s season-opening 17-7 win over OSU. "He was in the backfield all the time."

His unusual speed explains why Missouri has used a wide receiver to mimic Williams on the scout team this week.

"If you really want to know," Utah State quarterback Travis Cox said after losing 31-7 to Nebraska last month, "I can still feel him. … I’ve never played against anyone like him before."

For all the progress the Blackshirts have made, they’ve been feasting on some of the nation’s worst offenses: Penn State (81st nationally in total offense), Utah State (104th), Southern Mississippi (108th) and Troy State (110th).

"I try not to read much in the newspapers or on the Internet," Ruud said. "But when I do, you still see some people that say we’re overrated. It seems like there’s always people that want to see Nebraska fall. But that’s good, I guess. It’s only motivation."

Tomorrow, Nebraska faces one of the few offenses it contained last season. The Huskers held Missouri to just 220 yards in a 24-13 win. In quarterback Brad Smith’s first Big 12 road game, he totaled just 157 yards of offense against the Blackshirts, almost half his season average.

"We pursued very well in that game, for whatever reason," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said. "We matched up well in the schemes. We were able to keep Brad from breaking the long runs out of the one-back counter game that he was so successful at. We’ve got different schemes now, and they’ll definitely try to take advantage of what we’re doing."

"Their system works really well with the players they’ve got," Missouri offensive tackle Scott Paffrath said. "And they’ve got great athletes on defense. When you have guys as good as they have, I think you can plug in any system and it’ll do well. We’ll just try to counter what they’re going to do."


Thoughts on the Big 12...

Here's a question: how in the hell do you make a Big 12 Power Poll right now? Is there any way to do it justice? The top two on everybody's list just lost to teams ranked between #7-10 on everybody's list...and one of them lost by 3 TD's at home. The North Division, the conference whipping boy for half a decade, rose up in a major way. Next weekend's two huge games just got downgraded, while a KU-KSU game is possibly the biggest game in the conference's first two weeks now.


I decided to dare myself to create a Big 12 Power Poll this week...just because of the sheer 'degree of difficulty' first, I thought about just treating my 'Who's proven the most?' list from last week and treating it like an AP poll...bumping you down if you lose and bumping you up if you win. That would have resulted in something like this:

1. Kansas
2. Missouri
3. Kansas State
4. Oklahoma
5. Texas Tech
6. Colorado
7. Texas A&M
8. Texas
9. Nebraska
10. Oklahoma State
11. Baylor
12. Iowa State

Needless to say, that didn't work very well. I mean, it probably makes as much sense as anything else, but...yeah.

So here's what I'm going to do in attempt to make sense of all of this...for each team I'm going to 1) give my general thoughts, 2) talk about why they win games (when they win games), and 3) talk about how sustainable their methods of winning are...if that makes any sense. It will when I get started.

12. Iowa State

General thoughts. So far the Chizik Cyclones aren't too different from the McCarney Cyclones...which, I guess, make sense considering it's the same personnel. As they did quite a few times in 2006 (Mizzou game aside, grumble grumble), ISU put up a pretty decent fight for a half before their lack of talent and/or athleticism caught up with them in the second half.

Why they win games. They don't. But when they do, it seems to be when they have something extra to play for. They beat Iowa because it's their biggest rivalry game, and they always play Iowa well. They beat Missouri last year because it was Dan McCarney's last game (and because Monte Wyrick got called for holding on 4th-and-goal despite not actually touching anybody...but I'm trying to avoid going down that rant for the 78th time). They only time I can see them putting up an extra fight this year could be on Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe's Senior Day, which comes against Colorado. Watch that game. Until then? Yikes.

And yes, because I said that just now, this year's MU-ISU game will go into OT. I hate myself already.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Pretty sure I just covered this one. Not bloody likely.

11. Baylor

General thoughts. They put up a fight for a while against ATM, but they blew too many chances and eventually wore down.

Why they win games. Baylor got to 3-1 by utilizing their spread offense against defenses that weren't athletic enough to handle it.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? In a conference full of strong offenses and defenses with some semblance of speed? No, notsomuch. If a team makes some mistakes...turns the ball over a couple times...misses a tackle and gives up a big TD pass or something...then Baylor's got just enough talent to make them pay for it. But most likely it would have to be a series of mistakes...kind of what Oklahoma did against Colorado, only double. But after everything that went down yesterday, I can honestly say that stranger things have happened than a team losing to Baylor.

10. Oklahoma State

General thoughts. I realize it was just Sam Houston State, but if this win gets people to stop talking about Mike Gundy and Jenni Carlson, then it was one helluva win. I'M A MAN. I'M FORTY.

Why they win games. Big plays and a strong home field advantage.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Yes and no. They have another three tough-but-winnable home games (Texas, KU, KSU), and with Dantrell Savage apparently full speed, they've got a full arsenal of weapons at their disposal. But I just can't get over how many yards they gave up against Texas Tech (even Sam Houston pulled off 270 passing yards...albeit on 50 attempts). I know, I know...a Missouri fan talking about another defense giving up yards. Doesn't make just a ton of sense. But it's true. As bad as Mizzou's defense has been, OSU's has been worse, and that, plus the possible QB controversy, plus the trips to College Station, Norman, and Lincoln, doesn't lead to likely success.

9. Colorado

General thoughts. This is a very obvious thing to say, but...what a great win for them. They took advantage of every opportunity OU gave them (sans the missed FG early in the 4th quarter), and they used the strengths they have (quick defense, a healthy Hugh Charles) to their utmost advantage.

Why they win games. Quick defense and healthy Hugh Charles. Even last year, when the Buffs went 2-10, they rarely gave up big defensive plays. They use their quickness to keep the ball in front of them, and they make you drive the length of the field without making mistakes. Against an OU team with a freshman QB accustomed to making big plays, that was perfect. As for Hugh Charles...their O-line really hasn't been all that good for a while, but if they get him minimal blocking up front, he can use his phenomenal quickness to his advantage.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? I can see them going 5-3, which would put them in the range of the Alamo or Independence Bowl--quite a nice improvement from last year--but that's probably their ceiling. Charles will take quite a pounding over the course of the season, and his backups really aren't very strong. The defense will be strong, but the offense will likely put them in too many pressure situations. They'll force enough mistakes that it will be hard to blow them out--they eventually gave up points and yards to Arizona State, but that was after about 27 straight three-and-outs. In all, I love Charles, but I just don't think they have the offense to make a serious North Title run.

8. Texas Tech

General thoughts. Well, they're tied with OU and UT in conference record...that's a good thing, right?

Why they win games. They outscore their opponents. As many yards and points as they give up, they can usually count on gaining more and scoring more.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? least not when it comes to winning their division. I loooooooooooove Michael Crabtree, but...let's put it this way: when your defensive coordinator resigns mid-season, you're probably not going to reach lofty heights. There's nobody more fun to watch, though.

7. Kansas

General thoughts. Still have no idea what to think about them. That will be remedied next weekend when they travel to Manhattan.

Why they win games. So far, they've beaten teams by being a lot better than them. That's all we know for sure. It appears that Mangino has put together a team that makes few offensive mistakes and takes advantage of its defensive talent--ahem, Aqib Talib--and athleticism to make plays.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? I have absolutely no freaking idea. I think #7 might be way too low for them, but...well, the entire Big 12 script will change again in five days, so I don't want to think too hard about this.

6. Nebraska

General thoughts. The NU-ISU game started with the following results: fumble, fumble, FG, INT, punt, fumble, INT. Yes, NU ended up winning easily, and yes, half of those possessions were ISU's, but...EWWW. Sam Keller still makes some bad decisions--and being that he's halfway through his senior season, I'm pretty sure what you see is what you get on this one--and Marlon Lucky is very solid and very far from spectacular. The lineplay is...okay. The secondary is damn near dreadful. I know they'll get their yards and points against Mizzou, and the game will much closer than I would like it to be, but...they're shaky. Very shaky.

Why they win games. Screen passes and timely defensive stops. That's pretty much the recipe as far as I can tell.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Screen passes? Yes. I never understand how defenses repeatedly fall for that little "let the pass rusher through and dump it to the RB in the flat" play, but I've already mentally prepared myself for Marlon Lucky having 125 receiving yards Saturday night. Timely defensive stops? Playing with fire there. They haven't lost a single game they shouldn't so far this year, but they've toed the line. If Riley Skinner isn't hurt, Wake Forest beats Nebraska. If that Ball State WR doesn't momentarily go blind, the ball doesn't bounce off his helmet and Ball State beats NU. Hell, even ISU hung with them for a while. NU hasn't looked good since Week 1, and they could very easily be 2-3 right now, but they're not. They could very easily pull everything together and play just well enough to win the North again, but I'm not putting money on it right now.

5. Texas

General thoughts. Everybody cut them a lot of slack for struggling against Arkansas State and Central Florida, and justifiably so. They're Texas. They'll be ready when conference play starts, right? No. Colt McCoy is submerged in a major sophomore slump, and the defense still gives up quite a few untimely plays. Plus, after this last Saturday, the special teams unit is a mess.

Why they win games. Balanced offense, overpowering line play. Their pass defense has struggled for a while, but having strong weapons at offensive skill positions and lots of huge, talented hosses on the lines have usually been enough to procure a victory.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Probably, but it's not a given. I've been conditioned by the past 10 years or so to assume that Texas will right the ship just fine, bears mentioning that these are the results for Texas' last 8 games:

1) road loss to K-State
2) home loss to ATM
3) underwhelming bowl win over Iowa
4) underwhelming home win over Arkansas State
5) home win over TCU
6) underwhelming road win over Central Florida
7) easy home win over Rice
8) home loss to K-State

In other words, they've really only looked like Texas in two of their last 8 games...and honestly, against TCU they didn't look good until the fourth quarter. I'm still cutting them some slack here and keeping them at #5, but...they have a lot to prove against OU this weekend.

4. Texas A&M

General thoughts. I had them at #2, but I just could not get out of my head a) their horrid performance in the Orange Bowl, b) Jorvorskie Lane pouting on the sidelines at the Orange Bowl, or c) the 'how could this not be illegal in some way?' Dennis Franchione antics that were uncovered this week. They're 1-0 in the South, and they could very easily make a nice run here...but there are so many shadows looming. So I bumped them down.

Why they win games. Run, run, run. Their defense is okay, their WR's are mediocre, and their O-line was exposed quite a bit against Miami. But they have the three-headed attack of Lane, Goodson, and Stephen McGee (and to a lesser extent now, freshman Keondra Smith), and they can still pummel you with them.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Well, yes, if the aforementioned shadows--and a brutal slate of road trips (Lubbock, Lincoln, Norman, Columbia)--don't sink them first.

3. Kansas State

General thoughts. The Beef put it well this morning: K-State has an "odd ownership" of Texas. I can't explain it, but they do. Texas did them a lot of favors (a LOT of favors), and I still can't stand Ron Prince, but that was a strong statement they made on Saturday. They played their game and won big in Austin doing so. Nothing wrong with that.

Why they win games. Pressure defense and throwing to Jordy Nelson. The RBs have been underwhelming so far--kick returns aside--but they haven't needed much yet.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? With their schedule? Yes. Now that they've conquered Austin, three of their next four games are at home (KU, CU, @OSU, Baylor). Following a trip to Ames for Game 6, they could honestly be 5-1 before finishing at Nebraska and at home against Mizzou. Suddenly the MU-NU game has had quite a bit of its thunder stolen by KU-KSU...and I don't appreciate it.

2. Missouri

General thoughts. I hate this pick already. I had Mizzou anywhere between #2 and #6, and I didn't like it no matter where I put them. So in the end, I just decided to take the homer route. At least I'm honest about it. I do find it amusing, by the way, that--with the shot that Bernie Miklasz took at him--only in Missouri does the head coach take heat in a week where his team didn't even play.

Why they win games. The best QB in the league, and the best WR/TE corps in the league. Throw in some timely bend-don't-break defense, and there's the formula. I mentioned 'timely defensive stops' as almost a bad thing for Nebraska, and yet here I have Mizzou ranked #2. What's the difference? Right now, the difference is Chase Daniel and Martin Rucker. Daniel has the improvisational skills that Graham Harrell lacks and the experience that Sam Bradford lacks. And the has the best TE in the country (not to mention the fifth-best TE in the country...give or take a couple spot) to throw to on third down.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Oy. I think so, but I'm hundreds of miles (and about eight weeks) away from being convinced. After this crazy weekend, the easier games just got harder, and the harder games just got easier. I could analyze every single minute reason why I'm nervous and worried and hand-wringy at the moment, but instead I'll just say that right now Mizzou's #2 in the conference, and about 139 different storylines could emerge over the next two months.

1. Oklahoma

General thoughts. Their freshman QB--and the prototypical trap game--overtook them Saturday, but let's not go crazy here. Top to bottom, they're still quite obviously the best team in the conference.

Why they win games. Skill and speed.

Are their winning reasons sustainable? Yes. They'll get every opponent's maximum effort, and their QB very much proved himself to be a freshman in Boulder Saturday, but they will still be able to beat just about every team in the conference on sheer skill and speed.