Missouri's defense allowed a combined 74 points in its last two games. But in the first scrimmage of spring workouts, the Tiger defense took their first step toward eliminating the memories of those two forgettable performances.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed just 9 of 25 passes for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His backup, Jimmy Costello, completed 5 of 22 passes for 32 yards. The other three quarterbacks combined for 26-of-37 passing, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Missouri's quarterbacks completed 42 percent of their passes and the defense allowed just two touchdowns throughout the two-hour scrimmage.
Missouri's cornerbacks, often a source of frustration for fans and coaches a season ago, touted a new, more physical approach as the reason for the success.
Often on third-down and red-zone situations, Missouri's corners showed off their skills in press coverage, jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupting the offense's timing.
“To play in the Big 12, you have to be physical,” senior cornerback Carl Gettis told the Columbia Tribune. “And the only way we can win a championship in the Big 12 is to be physical.”
Part of the coaches' confidence necessary to turn to a more aggressive defensive approach comes from returning an experienced secondary, regardless of past failures. The Tigers return both starting corners (Gettis and Kevin Rutland) and both starting safeties (Jarrell Harrison and Jasper Simmons) -- now all seniors.
Missouri gave up the second-most pass yards in the Big 12 in 2009, and intercepted just eight passes -- seven by cornerbacks -- in 13 games. The Missouri pass defense ranked 104th nationally.
Coach Gary Pinkel admitted the offense struggled, and any scrimmages that look too one-sided can be a reason for concern, but he has to be pleased with the progress of his secondary.
Rutland led the team with two interceptions in 2009, but picked off another two passes on Saturday to equal his total from his entire junior season.