COLUMBIA — They called him “No. 7.”
To the Missouri defense, his name didn’t matter. All that mattered was the number on the front and back of the jersey, and how they could stop No. 7 from moving forward, how they could wrap No. 7 up and put No. 7 on the turf.
No. 7 was key focus of Missouri's defensive game plan.
The Tigers prepared all week for Kansas State’s high-powered running game, which is powered by No. 7, Collin Klein, who is technically the backup quarterback. But the Missouri defense had to contend with more than No. 7. Throughout Saturday’s game, the Wildcats made use of both their quarterbacks, Klein and Carson Coffman.
Missouri’s defense was able to adjust to each quarterback’s style of play in a 38-28 win.
Coffman, who started the game and went 11-for-18 for 170 yards, did not play in Kansas State’s previous game, a 39-14 victory against Texas. In that game, Klein went 2-for-4 for only 9 passing yards, but his 25 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns were key in the team’s victory. After Klein’s success, Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder said that he was unsure which quarterback would start in Columbia on Saturday, and the Tigers prepared for the possibility of both.
Linebacker Andrew Gachkar said that the team focused all week on preparing for both quarterbacks, for Klein’s speed and Coffman’s passes. Defensive end Aldon Smith said that the uncertainty of who would play definitely complicated the team’s preparation.
“You definitely couldn’t just game plan for one,” Smith said.
Missouri’s defense is no stranger to facing teams with multiple quarterbacks. Against Nebraska, the Tigers faced Taylor Martinez and Zac Lee. Against Texas Tech, the Tigers saw Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts.
Smith said that facing multiple quarterbacks in previous two games made the team more confident against Kansas State.
The difference on Saturday, however, was Kansas State’s constant substitutions. In the other two games, Martinez left because of an injury and Sheffield was benched, so the defense didn’t have to constantly adjust throughout the game.
“They (Coffman and Klein) were coming in and out. They were subbing like running backs. I’ve never seen that before,” Pinkel said.
The constant substitutions were a new concept for Pinkel, but his defense was able to quickly adjust to each quarterback’s style of play. Not surprisingly, Klein proved to be the rushing threat and Coffman passed more.
The defense knew that Klein, who only attempted six passes, was faster than Coffman. So the Tigers stuck mostly to a zone defense to try to contain his rushes. He finished with 141 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Speed rushing was a better option with Coffman, who passed for 170 yards, and whom the Tigers sacked four times.
Gachkar didn’t fully understand the Wildcats’ logic for switching so much. He had seen Coffman’s ability to run and throw on film, and he wondered why Kansas State seemed to have a lack of confidence in his running abilities.
Smith, though, could see Klein's benefit for the Kansas State offense.
“I think Klein was a lot better with his feet, and any time you have a quarterback that can run, that helps your team,” Smith said.
Snyder said he knows his dual-quarterback offense will be subject to criticism, and he admitted it may not be ideal. Still, Snyder appreciates the positive contributions of both quarterbacks, and he said each continue to play in some capacity.
"Each of them made mistakes, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the rhythm because they both did some good things,” Snyder said.
How defenses contend with his scheme may vary, but one this is clear: No. 7 is no longer a secret.