Moments after Missouri’s 48-0 win against Ball State on Sept. 18, Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said the level of competition would rise 15 notches when Big 12 Conference play begins.
When Missouri (2-1) plays Colorado (3-0) on Saturday, the Tigers will face better athletes and the defense will see their first complete offensive opponent.
After facing pass-happy Arkansas State and two run-dominant opponents in Troy and Ball State, the Buffaloes bring an experienced running back and quarterback tandem in Bobby Purify and Joel Klatt.
This added dimension has had the Tigers working to improve in all facets of the game. Pinkel said Monday during the Tigers’ media day that Missouri is always looking to improve in stopping the run, the pass, getting pressure on the quarterback and moving the football with greater ease.
The Missouri offense should be able to continue its efficient scoring against Colorado, which enters the game last in the Big 12 in total defense, giving up 452 yards per game. The Tiger defense, however, has to deal with slowing down Purify, a fifth-year senior. He missed most of last season after suffering a high ankle sprain, which required surgery, in Colorado’s third game. This season, Purify has bounced back to run for 354 yards, the sixth-most in the conference.
Pinkel said Purify brings the complete package to Colorado’s rushing attack.
“(Purify is a) good athlete, he can run, he’s got size, he’s quick,” Pinkel said. “He’s just a very talented player, he was before he got hurt. So, (he is) a very impressive guy.”
The task of stopping Purify grew more difficult when starting outside linebacker David Richard was suspended for the contest for disciplinary reasons after being arrested for suspicion of possession of marijuana. He will be replaced in the lineup by sophomore Marcus Bacon, who is making his first career start.
“Marcus has been playing quite a bit there, he’s very competitive,” Pinkel said.
“Our defensive scheme, now we allow ourselves, whether we get in a base defense, nickel defense or dime defense to kind of adjust people. I’m sure he is excited about the opportunity and he’s very athletic, athletic-type linebacker and it’s going to be a task. We’re playing a really good running back, I think without question one of the best running backs in the Big 12.”
Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, a junior, said he doesn’t remember Purify from previous Missouri and Colorado games, but he has been impressed with what he has seen from the back this year.
“I don’t quite remember the guy,” Mosley said. “I know I’ve seen Chris Brown and I think last year, I think he might have been hurt last year. They had (Brian) Calhoun last year and this year, man, he looks almost just like Chris Brown back there.”
Two years ago, Brown rushed for 211 yards in the Buffaloes’ 42-35 overtime win against Missouri. Purify ran for 119 yards off the bench in the game. Last season, Calhoun led Colorado with 65 rushing yards in the 21-16 win.
Defensive end Zach Ville echoed Mosley’s thoughts that Purify has looked special this season, but he said the Missouri defense would provide Purify with a true test.
“Well, I guess he’s pretty tough,” Ville, a senior, said. “I’ve been watching him on television the last couple of weeks and he’s been doing a good job against other opponents, but now you got to come and face the Missouri defensive line and that will be a tough test for him.”
Though Purify has plenty of talent, senior safety Jason Simpson said the toughest aspect he brings to the game is his experience in tough ballgames.
“Yeah, he’s tough and fast,” Simpson said. “But he’s smart, too, because he’s been there. I think he’s been hurt the last two years, but he’s got a lot of experience coming to the field. We’ve got to know that going in to it and wrap him up.”