COLUMBIA — When Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy broke through the offensive line in the first half of Saturday’s annual Black and Gold scrimmage game, his instincts were working against him.
Ealy ripped through his block and was ready to put quarterback Maty Mauk on his back, but the rules of the Tigers' scrimmage prevent hits on the quarterback. Instead, the defense only needed to lay a single hand on the passer to get credit for a sack.
While the rule change would seem to benefit the pass rushers, Ealy insists it was difficult to hold back once he was free in the backfield. As a result, the 260-pound pass rusher failed to get a hand on Mauk before his pass fluttered away and was credited only with a quarterback hurry.
“Most people think it’s easier, but I don’t think so,” Ealy said, shaking his head. “I hate when we have to touch him down. I’d rather just go ahead and smash the quarterback.”
The rest of the defense had to resist the urge to hit the quarterback quite a bit on Saturday. After spotting the reserves a 14-point lead as part of the scrimmage scoring rules, the starters didn’t allow a touchdown, collecting three sacks in addition to Ealy’s quarterback hurry as the starters won 21-14.
With the quarterback competition in full swing, coach Gary Pinkel has stressed taking care of the football. With four interceptions between the starters and reserves on defense, Saturday’s final spring practice wasn’t a glowing example of that.
“If you want to be a good offensive football team, you can’t get penalties, you can’t take sacks, and you can’t turn the ball over,” Pinkel said. “We traditionally over the years have been pretty good at not beating ourselves, but we need to get back to that. That’s the rallying cry from my standpoint. Missouri beat Missouri a lot out there.”
The lack of offensive production and careless handling of the football kept the crowd, which was generously announced as 18,384, subdued for most of the contest.
The east side of the stadium was closed for renovations, leaving the south side parking lot as the spot for the scattered, dedicated tailgaters. On a cloudless April afternoon, the pre- and post-game provided as much entertainment as the scrimmage itself. Fans trickled onto the field at the conclusion of the game to meet the 2013 Tigers and get autographs.
The defense's performance may not have inspired much of a reaction from the crowd, but after winning the first two scrimmages and dominating Saturday's Black & Gold game, the Tigers are feeling confident on that side of the ball.
“We’re just stepping up to the stage,” Ealy said. “It’s the SEC, and we realize from last year, you have to bring it in the game that much more.”
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.