The NCAA doesn’t limit player substitution, which was a good thing for Missouri’s defense Saturday.
To stop Texas Tech’s top-ranked offense Missouri’s defense had to try something new at Memorial Stadium.
Rotating between base and nickel formations, new players came in on almost every down for the Tigers. In the nickel defense, they substituted six to seven players several times during each drive.
The changes worked. The Tigers held Texas Tech to almost 100 yards less than its season average for total offense and 16 points below its scoring average to beat the Red Raiders 62-31.
Texas Tech had averaged 47.1 points and 627.4 yards of offense coming into the game.
Although the Red Raiders gained 531 yards and Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons threw for four touchdowns, the Tigers contained them.
MU coach Gary Pinkel said he was pleased with the effectiveness of the substitutions.
“I have no question that was very significant for our defense and the success that they had out there,” Pinkel said.
Other than the constant player rotations, the coaching staff did not change anything when preparing for Texas Tech’s pass-oriented offense, Pinkel said.
“We thought it was important to mix man, zone and pressure,” Pinkel said. “A lot of people, they turn that video off as a defensive staff, and they just kind of look. They’re numb. Then they want to change a bunch of things. This year, we did a couple of new things but we stayed in our base structure.”
Senior linebacker Brandon Barnes had two interceptions and forced a fumble.
“We had a nice little rotation going,” Barnes said. “If you get a good hit on the QB, the ball’s going to float somewhere and somebody’s going to pick it off.”
Players said the substitutions benefited them.
“With a fresh new group coming in and out, it really helps you out,” sophomore cornerback Calvin Washington said. “Also it kind of confuses the quarterback, with the personnel that he’s going against.”
Although he is known for his passing game, Symons scrambled several times, finishing with 12 yards on seven carries. Outside safety Dedrick Harrington said he thought the defense took Symons out of his comfort zone.
“He got a few yards here and there, but we stayed in there,” Harrington said.
Throughout the game, Harrington lined up barely behind the line and blitzed Symons, a new responsibility for him.
“Coach put me there, and I just wanted to help my team,” Harrington said.