Jayhawks expose cracks in Tigers’ defense

Problems for Missouri stem from a lack of execution on field.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:33 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Missouri had two weeks to prepare for Kansas, a team depending on a fourth-string quarterback and a backup running back.

With the extra week to prepare for the Jayhawks’ offense, the Tigers’ top-ranked defense was outplayed from the start in Missouri’s 31-14 loss. Kansas entered the game last in the Big 12 Conference in total offense and ahead of only pass-heavy Texas Tech rushing the ball.

Senior defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison said the team’s effort was there but the players failed to make the necessary plays.

“I don’t know. We still prepared and we game-planned,” Ellison said. “I mean, we had two weeks to prepare for them, and we just didn’t execute, I guess.”

Even in losses to Kansas State and Nebraska, Missouri’s pass defense, ranked No. 3 in the country, allowed only 174 total passing yards in those two games. But against Brian Luke, Kansas’ fourth-string quarterback, the Tigers allowed 239 yards.

MU coach Gary Pinkel said he was impressed with Luke’s play against Texas on Nov. 13.

“Luke, shoot, I thought he played pretty good,” Pinkel said. “I know our fourth-team quarterback isn’t that good. I guarantee you that.”

Ellison said the Tigers did not overlook Luke and the Kansas offense.

Ellison also said there were defensive players in the wrong spots, but he said it was a result of players going outside the defensive scheme.

“We went back and looked at the tape. It’s just like people not doing what our defense does,” Ellison said. “I mean, people doing their own thing and it only takes one person to break down for the whole defense to suffer for it. So different people on different plays weren’t all in it together.”

The defensive lapse was all mental and the lack of turnovers contributed to the loss, Jason Simpson said.

“Yeah, our pass defense wasn’t good at all as everybody knows and we contend the rush. We eliminated big plays, but we lost third-down battles,” he said. “You got to get off the field, you go to get takeaways and we didn’t get enough that day either.”

The Tigers forced two turnovers with a Nino Williams II interception leading directly to Missouri’s first score. That late play though was

unable to make up for Kansas converting 50 percent of their third down attempts, 9-of-18.

ACADEMIC HONORS: Eleven members of Missouri’s football team have been lauded for their achievements in the classroom by being named to the Academic All-Big 12 team on Tuesday.

Freshman Adam Crossett, sophomore Brad Ekwerekwu, senior Joe Gianino, senior Brock Harvey, sophomore Andrew Hoskins, senior Clint Matthews and senior Zach Strom were selected to the first team. First-team members have maintained a grade point average of 3.20 or better, while the second teamers have a GPA of 3.00 to 3.19.

Senior defensive lineman Phil Pitts was named to the league academic team for fourth straight year, this year making the second team. Other second-team members include junior Derrick Ming, freshman Jason Ray and senior Beau Viehmann.

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