The Missouri defense and coaches can’t point to one single thing explaining why the defense can’t stop the run. It’s everything.
At Monday’s media day, there was a long list of reasons why the Tigers have given up 934 net yards on the ground in Big 12 play, an average of almost 187 yards per game.
“It’s not just one single position,” linebacker Marcus Bacon said. “Everybody needs to be doing their job. If you say the defensive line isn’t getting enough push up front then maybe the linebackers aren’t in the right gaps.”
From the perspective of the defensive line, Lorenzo Williams had a slightly different opinion.
“I think it’s more not focusing than anything else,” Williams said. “Sometimes we’re getting pushed out of our gaps or turned out of our gaps a little bit. That allows for openings and we need to be more physical up front and hold our gaps.”
Moving up to the top of the football food chain, coach Gary Pinkel offered his reasons.
“Certainly, we have to do better against the run, and there’s nothing magical there,” Pinkel said. “We’re not going to change the schemes because we believe in what we’re doing. Sometimes it’s leverage, sometimes it’s contain, and other times it’s missed tackles.”
Whether it’s failing to wrap-up on tackles, missing assignments, getting pushed off the line or being in the wrong gap at the wrong time, everyone agreed the rushing defense needs to be shored up in a hurry before the Nebraska game on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.
And Nebraska might offer Missouri its toughest test this season in stopping the run. The Cornhuskers have used a running back by committee this year with great success. Brandon Jackson, Marlon Lucky, Cody Glenn and Kenny Wilson have each rushed for 100 yards in a game and the four are on pace to each crack 500 yards rushing for the season. Jackson has taken over lately as the leader of the committee, rushing for 430 yards and three touchdowns in the last four weeks. Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor, who also leads the nation’s 23rd-ranked passing offense, said the Cornhuskers weren’t going to shy away from their running game this week.
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With so many options and the ability for the running backs to stay fresh without the offense losing production, Nebraska’s rushing game has been a major key to their success. And it presents a major problem to the struggling Missouri rush defense.
“Each guy has his own little special thing,” said defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski. “Each guy is a little different. With four guys it’s a little harder to pin down each guy.”
Williams offered one way to prevent Nebraska’s rushing game from being a problem.
“We need to tackle right at the line and put the running back down right away,” Williams said. “No yards after the run starts. We have to concentrate on that.”