COLUMBIA — There are three typical ways to cause a fumble. Use the rip technique in which the defender reaches around the ball carrier and attempts to yank out the football. Go for the punch in which the defender strikes the football with a quick jab so it pops out. Or everybody’s favorite, hit a guy so hard when he doesn’t see you coming that he can’t help but let go of the football.
During Saturday morning’s scrimmage, Missouri’s defense did all three.
The Tigers officially forced four lost fumbles according to the MU athletics department, but there appeared to be at least two more that sneaked past the scrimmage's stats.
“We want to force the ball out, and give the ball back to our offense, senior cornerback Carl Gettis said. “We just emphasize punching through the ball, slapping the ball ripping the ball, any way you can get the ball out.”
Last season, MU ranked ninth in the Big 12 in terms of takeaways with 23, so going for the ball is something they are stressing in practice this year.
“We didn’t have enough takeaways last year,” Gettis said. “We need more takeaways, so that’s the emphasis.”
Still, Gettis was surprised how often the ball hit the turf throughout the scrimmage.
“I don’t know what it was,” he said. “They usually don’t lose the ball that much. It was coming out a lot. We just had a lot of opportunities to recover.”
Like always, the offense should take some blame while the defense deserves credit, too. But maybe it was the extra layers of sweat making the ball slippery as the heat index rose to nearly 105 degrees Saturday morning.
“I think some of it can go both ways,” Smith said. “Some of them they may not have had, but sometimes it’s just our guys remembering and being coached to punch the ball and rip it out.”
For junior defensive end Jacquies Smith, who forced a fumble on Saturday, the opportunity to steal the possession is something he’s constantly thinking about.
“We preaching takeaways,” Smith said. “We know takeaways win a lot of football games. Coach told us in the meeting to be aggressive and be attacking that ball. Last year we had a lot of takeaways, but there were more opportunities.”
Smith also made it clear that it’s not just a wild attack on the ball. Going for the strip is a perfected technique, that most importantly, also requires making the tackle.
“There’s a form to doing it,” Smith said. “You’ve got to have your one arm around them and the other is violently ripping for that ball, but you’ve got to make sure you’ve secured the tackle before you do it.”
Coach Gary Pinkel was pleased with the defense’s aggressiveness. Just don’t ask him about the offense’s prospects.
“Good football teams don’t do those kind of things,” Pinkel said. “It’s good that we’re getting the ball on defense. You know, at scrimmages if one side does poorly, the other side did something good.”