THURSDAY FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Missouri pass rush highlights final scrimmage

Thursday, August 27, 2009 | 7:35 p.m. CDT; updated 10:02 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 27, 2009
Sophomore starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed 11 of 14 passes for 84 yards during the Tigers' final scrimmage of the fall on Thursday.

COLUMBIA — Football is fun for Jimmy Costello. Well, at least most of the time.

There are other times where football isn't so fun. And it's usually when Missouri's top trio of defensive ends is involved. Thursday was one of those days.

As rain moved into Columbia on Thursday afternoon, the Missouri football team's scrimmage moved inside to the Daniel Devine Pavilion. The change in venue prevented the scrimmage's normal format, and thus it didn't have a final outcome. But scoring wasn't needed to notice a theme when the No. 1 defense was on the field. That theme was pressure.

The No. 1 defense didn't allow a first down in its first three appearances against the No. 2 offense. And whether it was Costello, or freshman quarterback Blaine Dalton running the second team offense, neither was allowed to get comfortable.

"You look at the three (defensive) ends competing for those starting two jobs, and all three of those guys could start anywhere across the nation," Costello said. "For us to have all three of those guys fighting for two spots, we're very fortunate."

Sophomore Jacquies Smith sacked Costello on third down of the first possession, and Smith later added another tackle in the backfield when he dropped freshman running back Kendial Lawrence for a 3-yard loss.

Senior Brian Coulter got in the act later on, first forcing an incompletion on a Costello pass, then getting to Dalton as he released the ball.

Costello said that he notices more speed as a whole on the Missouri defense this year, especially at defensive end. But senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon says that while there may be a slight increase in quickness at the position, the improvement in the pass rush isn't about athleticism.

"We've got guys that think they should've played more last year, and they're just trying to make the best of their opportunities this year," Weatherspoon said. "They're just focused. They're hungry."

  • Considering how he's performed over the past few weeks, Blaine Gabbert finished fall camp Thursday in typical fashion. Other than an under-thrown fade route that was almost intercepted by Jasper Simmons, the sophomore looked solid, completing 11 of 14 passes for 84 yards. Gabbert looked to have more time in this scrimmage than he did previously, and he made the most of it. There are still times where he's forced out of the pocket and has to make something happen with his legs, but getting starting right tackle Dan Hoch back next week should alleviate some of those problems.
  • Danario Alexander was once again Gabbert's No. 1 target in an 11-on-11 setting Thursday. The senior wide receiver caught four passes for 42 yards and made a play along the sideline that left several onlookers asking, "How'd he do that?" After Alexander slipped on a route along the left sideline, he somehow readjusted to the ball and made the catch with his feet inbounds despite the majority of his torso being out of bounds.
  • Several members of the Missouri secondary looked good making tackles in the open field. Junior Kevin Rutland made two solo plays near the line of scrimmage and sophomore Trey Hobson looked comfortable bringing down ball carriers on his own as well.
  • Along with his four carries for 23 yards and a touchdown, Derrick Washington showed why the offensive coaching staff respects his receiving ability enough to draw up individual routes for the junior. After catching a screen pass, Washington stopped dead in his tracks, letting a defender fly by before he put a juke on another would-be tackler. The play only netted five yards, but it exhibited just how comfortable Washington is after catching the ball in the open field.
  • Will Ebner is usually good for at least one hit every practice that elicits a reaction from everyone in attendance. Thursday was no different. After Jerrell Jackson took the handoff on a reverse, Ebner lowered his shoulder and delivered a huge collision that sent Jackson flying to the turf after a 1-yard gain.
  • Freshman running back Kendial Lawrence seems to make every play he's involved in more exciting. Lawrence had a 9-yard run Thursday that probably totaled 25 yards including the distance he moved side to side. But there are still times where the freshman looks like a freshman. After catching a pass and moving up the left sideline Lawrence was launched out of bounds by Sean Weatherspoon.
  • Gabbert completed a 13-yard deep out on the right sideline from the left hash mark to sophomore tight end Andrew Jones that still caused a thud when it struck Jones' chest. There are the occasional moments where Gabbert's arm looks like it's on a different level. That was one of them.

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