Missouri's defense steps out in strong spring-game effort

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The post-Chase Daniel era was noticeable at Missouri's Black-Gold Game as much for what didn't happen as what did.

With Daniel watching from the bench and helping his old coaches, his replacements sagged in a struggling performance where the Missouri defense largely dominated.

Projected starter Blaine Gabbert completed 9 of 17 passes for 93 yards with an interception. He showed a rocket arm with a 60-yard pass that was barely incomplete. But he was also fortunate that two other passes weren't intercepted.

"Everybody has got to improve," Gabbert said. "We're going to have to work hard all summer just to get better. Overall, we've all done well. I just need to work on the little stuff."

Gabbert could be given a little bit of a mulligan, considering top receivers like Jared Perry, Danario Alexander and Michael Egnew did not see action and top running back Derrick Washington barely played.

"Making completions, that's the big thing," Gabbert said. "Just playing catch. That's what we need to work on the most."

The defense's dominant effort showed up on the scoreboard as it claimed a 68-40 triumph over the offense in a scoring system devised by the Missouri coaches. But even those wacky numbers couldn't diminish an effort where the Missouri offense was limited to a combined 355 yards and one touchdown.

Coach Gary Pinkel was pleased with his defense's performance. Second-string quarterback Jimmy Costello couldn't lead his unit to a single first down against Missouri's No. 1 defense.

"If your defense is playing well, then that's OK," Pinkel said. "There's nothing wrong with that. If you're not excited about the defense after the spring game, then that's not good. We're glad they're getting out there and playing football."

The defense's dominance prompted a quick description from Gabbert about their performance.

"They beasted us," Gabbert told the Kansas City Star of the effort. "Plain and simple they just outplayed us."

All-Big 12 linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, one of only four starters back for the defense, said his unit still has much growth ahead.

"I don't think it's safe to say that we're a dominant defense at the moment, but I think we've definitely made some strides and come far," Weatherspoon said. " I think the offense is still good... don't sleep on that offense."

Pinkel was intrigued with the unit's athleticism and particularly how quickly it has adapated to new defensive coordinator Dave Steckel's schemes.

"I don't like to compare, but this season we have a lot of speed on defense," Pinkel said. "We have a lot of young guys, freshman guys, and they have a lot of ability. We have to get better and we have the coaching and ability to get there."

A crowd of 13,122 attended at Faurot Field -- about half of last year's spring game attendance.