After its bye week, Missouri has no doubt that Indiana’s game plan will utilize an array of screen passes.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
That’s because the Tigers struggled defending the screen against Toledo in a 38-23 victory last Saturday. The Rockets worked the edges and made hay on more than a dozen screen passes.
“I wouldn’t say worried, but I would say we have to prepare a little bit better for the screens and make plays,” senior cornerback E.J. Gaines said.
MU defensive coordinator Dave Steckel deploys a gap-control defense and the same principles apply on a screen pass, where each defensive back has a responsibility to funnel the play toward teammates who are in position to tackle.
“You practice screens in practice and you have gaps on the outside that everybody has to fit into,” said Gaines, who injured a knee during preseason camp and suffered a concussion against the Rockets. “That’s something that we didn’t do (against Toledo), so we’ll work on that.”
Missouri didn’t do a great job with its defensive fits outside against Toledo.
“We had a lot of trouble with that perimeter run support,” Pinkel said. “Those screens are like sweeps, same thing. We had trouble with it and we have to work to get better.”
Pinkel knows what’s coming against pass-happy Indiana next weekend.
“Guess what we’re going to see from Indiana? I guarantee you,” Pinkel said when asked about the defensive struggles in the screen game. “That’s what you do. Obviously, we’ve got to work on that.”
Of course, there was a glimmer of hope.
“The good news is we’ve got a week (off) now, so we’ve got an extra week,” Pinkel said.
Wanted: More sacks
Missouri also didn’t have much luck getting to the quarterback against Toledo, failing to record a sack after managing only one in a season-opening romp against Murray State.
The Tigers’ defensive line, particularly Shane Ray, a graduate of Bishop Miege, managed to pressure Rockets quarterback Terrance Owens a few times, but he did a good job getting rid of the ball quickly.
That lack of sacks is a concern, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel admitted after the win, but it’s also something the Tigers expect will improve against teams that hold the ball longer in an effort to push passes downfield.
“Murray State, their offensive line sat back off the ball and was just waiting for us,” Ealy said. “We’d get a good bull rush or make a move and, by that time, they’d throw the ball. This game was a lot quicker. My hat goes off to the quarterback he just got the ball more than the last game.”
How about some good news?
During the entire 2012 season, the Tigers only intercepted seven passes, including one each by linebackers Zaviar Gooden and Donovan Bonner.
Through two games in 2013, the Tigers already have picked off six passes, including safety Ian Simon’s game-clinching interception during the fourth quarter against Toledo.
Linebacker Matt White also snuffed out the Rockets’ drive to close the first half by picking off Terrance Owens in the end zone on a ball tipped by Gaines.
Speaking of Gaines, he has two interceptions for a secondary that has picked off four passes in two games, again only one fewer than last season.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.