COLUMBIA — With the nonconference schedule behind it, the MU football team can now look at the game it and many fans have been targeting since the 2007 schedule was released.
Nebraska on Oct. 6.
Rival Nebraska is set to visit Faurot Field in the Tigers’ Big 12 Conference opener and MU coach Gary Pinkel, staff and players can now plan for the game that many feel will be the defining matchup in the Big 12 North.
“We wanted to be 4-0 going into conference, and we reached that goal,” senior running back Tony Temple said. “Now its time to go to conference.”
The Tigers will enter the game with a 4-0 record and a No. 20 ranking going into a bye next week. With the parity that has been the story in college football thus far, that ranking could go even higher by the time Nebraska comes into town.
The offense has been where many people thought it would be. Daniel’s command of the system has made the offense hard to handle for opposing defenses.
But the Tigers’ defense, which had its share of concerns coming into the season, has made it difficult for the team to put opponents away, a problem staff knows it must fix with an efficient Nebraska offense coming in to town.
The Tigers’ defense has inherited leads of more than 20 points at halftime in all four of its games this season. Illinois State got within two scores Saturday, but the Tigers’ offense and special teams were able to widen the gap with second-half touchdowns.
Though the Tigers gave up a season low of 397 total yards against Illinois State, problems such as a lack of defensive pressure on the quarterback and poor tackling allowed the Redbirds to move the ball the entire game.
The defense has the ability, according to coaches, to make plays with the athleticism they have. But making those plays for an entire 60-minute game is what Pinkel is concerned about.
“I’ve just been preaching consistency to them,” Pinkel said. “We need to do things consistently well for the entire game.”
The Cornhuskers, whose only loss was to No. 1 ranked Southern California, narrowly escaped defeat at home against Ball State, 41-40, on Saturday. When asked after the game if some of them had seen the score of the Nebraska constest during the game, players admitted that they had, but are not taking that into account when preparing.
“We don’t know the circumstances that were in that game, so we can’t really assume,” defensive end Stryker Sulak said. “We know they are a good team.”
The result of the Nebraska game will be the barometer of this season to followers of the team. And with nothing else to look ahead to, Tiger players can now feel the weight the game will have on their season. “It’s going to be a great game, and I love playing Nebraska,” Sulak said.