Tigers’ defense stifles offense

Coach Gary Pinkel says
his offense’s performance disappointed him.
Sunday, April 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:32 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The optimistic Missouri football fan could look at Saturday’s scrimmage as a solid defensive display.

Defensive lineman Xzavie Jackson recovered a fumble and Jason Simpson, James Kinney and Travis Cardoza intercepted passes. With points awarded for everything from sacks, turnovers and tackles for loss to first downs and forced three-and-outs, the defense led by more than 30 at times and won 67-50.

“I think we did pretty good,” Kinney said. “The defense made a lot of plays on first and second down and stepped up.”

The pessimistic fan, and most realistic fans, would look at the scrimmage at Faurot Field as a sloppy display from the offense.

Receivers seemingly dropped more passes than they caught for substantial gains early. The first and second units failed to generate long drives until late. No unit scored a touchdown until well into the action.

“Offensively, we were a little slow, a little sluggish,” quarterback Brad Smith said. “We didn’t make many plays. We’ve got to get better.”

Smith did not throw any touchdowns, though his 11-yard completion to tight end Victor Sesay set up Damien Nash’s 1-yard touchdown run. Backup quarterback Brandon Coleman found receiver Arnold Britt over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown on one of the final drives.

Until Britt’s catch, Simpson’s interception, which he returned about 25 yards and might have broken for a touchdown had he not lost his shoe, stood as the longest gain of the day.

“I thought the No. 1 offense played very, very poorly,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “I thought the defense did a lot of good things, but gave up two touchdowns and if we want to be a great defense, that sort of thing shouldn’t happen, giving up two touchdowns to the No. 2 offense.”

There were a few offensive bright spots. Redshirt freshman tailback Marcus Woods, hoping to earn significant playing time next season, evaded defenders with several sharp cuts and scored the first touchdown on a 3-yard run.

Woods is shorter than most backs at 5 feet 8. rated him as the No. 8 all-purpose back in the nation in high school. Woods is listed as the second tailback on the spring depth chart behind Nash.

“He’s a good player,” Smith said. “A great player. He’s got a little Barry Sanders in him back there.”

Britt, listed as the second H-back receiver, made two catches on the first scoring drive. Tailback Beau Viehmann, third on the depth chart, broke through tackles on a few of his runs. Lee Ewigman, the fourth tailback, broke through for about 25 yards, the longest run of the day.

Some of the struggles could also be excused. Smith was not running as freely as he will during the season because coaches wanted him to focus on his passing and did not want to risk injury. The offensive line is adjusting to the loss of four starters.

Overall, though, disappointment dominated. Two of the touchdowns came on third-and-10, a sore spot for Pinkel and Simpson.

“We can’t break down on third and fourth and 10,” Simpson said. “That’s just not acceptable.”

The Tigers will hold two more practices before the Black and Gold scrimmage at 2 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field.

Judging by Pinkel’s evaluation of Saturday’s scrimmage, the team could be in for an intense week.

“We’ve just got a long way to go,” Pinkel said. “We’re not close to being at the level we’ve got to be, and I think everybody recognizes that.”

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