COLUMBIA — Missouri is set to face another “fastball offense” when the Tigers head to Big Ten country for a Saturday night game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The newest college football fad is the up-tempo offense. and the Hoosiers are as fast and effective blitzing teams through the air as anyone in the nation, averaging 50 points and more than 571 yards during a 2-1 start.
Of course, Missouri plays at a fast tempo too, and seeing that on a daily basis in practice ought to help the Tigers’ defense.
That said, defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has his hands full.
“It’s about being disciplined and reducing big plays,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “It’s being good on third down and being good against the run. Can you put some pressure on, can you mix things up a bit? It’s a combination of all those things, but good players are going to make plays. You just want to make more than they do.”
Tailback Tevin Coleman is averaging 8.1 yards on 41 carries, but Indiana’s real strength is its passing attack, led by sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who has completed 60 of 85 passes for 917 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in three games.
And he spreads the ball around too.
Senior wide receiver Kofi Hughes (13 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns) leads the Hoosiers receiving corps, which also includes junior wide receivers Cody Latimer (11 catches for 210 yards and one TD) and Shane Wynn (nine catches for 185 yards and three TDs).
Senior tight end Ted Bolser (12 catches for 146 yards and four TDs) is a chain-mover and red-zone threat.
There’s one thing Pinkel is adamant Missouri won’t do to slow down Indiana. He won’t instruct players to fake injuries in an effort to break the Hoosiers’ rhythm — a tactic that has drawn increasing scrutiny with the proliferation of no-huddle offenses.
“There’s ethics there,” Pinkel said. “We would never — I would never, ever say, ‘Hey, OK, if this gets tight fall down to the ground and grab your hamstring?’ I would never do that. There’s ethics involved with this, and I would like to think that no coach would do that.”
The truth is that it’s not a new concern.
And such concerns aren’t limited to the college game either. The NFL went so far as to issue a memo before the season began, reminding teams that faking injuries is frowned upon.
According to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, that didn’t stop the Giants from embellishing late in the Cowboys’ season-opening 36-31 win. Of course, perception isn’t always reality. One of the players Jones accused of faking an injury subsequently went on injured reserve.
Such instances make phony injuries tough to legislate from the game. Do we really want game officials determining the legitimacy of a player’s ailment and possibly forcing a player with nerve damage, for instance, to continue playing? That’s silly and potentially dangerous.
The only real solution is for coaches to police themselves, but not all of the will as this excellent piece by Jon Solomon illustrates. Some coaches have taken to teaching the strategy.
Then again, perhaps some of it is mere hyperbole. After all, the average college football game averaged more plays per game by both teams combined 45 years ago than it did last season.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.