COLUMBIA – In Missouri's loss to Nebraska last week, Tiger fans didn't see the crisp passing game and frequent touchdowns they are accustomed to seeing from the offense.
There were too many penalties. The running game struggled. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh wreaked havoc, forcing two turnovers.
Missouri's offensive linemen recognize all those things. They do not want to talk about them, but they do want to fix the biggest areas of concern before Saturday, when they face No. 14 Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.
"We just know what we need to improve," sophomore Jayson Palmgren said. "We had too many holding penalties as a group. That's the big thing we're going to improve on, is keeping our hands inside (closer to each other, so holding won't be called). That hurt us a lot.
"We were just as physical," he said. "We just need to improve on our technique."
The Tigers had four holding penalties against Nebraska. They had none against Nevada in the previous game.
Junior Tim Barnes said he knew coaches would emphasize basic skills in practice leading up to the Oklahoma State game, in an effort to minimize the penalties.
"I don't know if they're going to tie (our hands) together or what," he said.
A standout defensive lineman like Suh takes advantage of undeveloped skills, coach Gary Pinkel said.
"You're going to play against a lot of great players," he said. "You maybe find out you've got to get better at something. He's certainly gotten better after he played us (last year)."
"Playing against players like that, you've got to be fundamentally sound," he said. "We weren't there yet."
The struggles have also trickled down to Missouri's running backs. The Tigers have averaged 3.6 yards per carry so far in 2009.
Still, Missouri's blockers promise adjustments are being made.
"We're better now in the run game than we were in the Illinois game," senior Kurtis Gregory said.
Barnes agreed the improvement of the offensive line will lead to more yards for running backs in the near future.
"There's flashes of it. It always starts up front," he said. "We've got off a few good runs and they've been called off by holding. Everyone's got to do a little bit more. We're finally getting that run game going a little bit."
Oklahoma State is averaging 38.4 points per game this season, but Palmgren said avoiding mistakes will allow the Missouri offense to score often enough.
"Our defense will keep the points down," he said.
The frustration from losing an important game won't go away, Barnes said. He wants to prove Saturday that Missouri's offense is better than what people saw last week.
"As much as I want to forget it ever happened, I can't," he said. "We've got an excellent opportunity ahead of us."