University of Missouri

Change to ‘30’ defense gives Missouri another weapon

Updated: 2013-09-26T06:47:34Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

— Offensively, Indiana played like a confused football team during the third quarter Saturday in a 45-28 home loss against Missouri.

That’s because the Hoosiers were baffled and bewildered when the Tigers, who led by two touchdowns at halftime, emerged from the locker room playing a different base defense.

Missouri switched from a 4-3 — though the Tigers predominantly played nickel with only two linebackers on the field in the first half — to defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s “30 defense.”

“Coach Stec is going to beat me up for this, but I’m going to say it, because I don’t know what else he wants me to call it but a 3-3-5,” junior defensive Kony Ealy said. “That’s what it kind of looked like. We just got out there in a 3-3-5, and it was something they hadn’t seen us do on film. We just pulled it out of the cabinet.”

Instead of four down linemen, Missouri deployed three with three linebackers lined up in a variety of positions — sometimes as a rush end and other times dropping to clog passing lanes.

“We worked on it a couple weeks in spring ball and we worked on it a couple weeks in summer ball,” sophomore linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “To me, I feel like it’s one of the best defenses to have, because we can do a lot of stuff out of that defense.”

The Hoosiers certainly weren’t prepared for it, managing only 23 yards in 15 third-quarter plays.

Missouri debuted a variation of Steckel’s “30” during the season finale against Texas A&M last year, but it didn’t exactly slow down Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, who racked up 59 points and 647 total yards in a lopsided win.

“It was a version of, but it was not that defense (we used against Indiana),” Steckel said. “It worked better this week, huh?”

Even with only three dedicated pass rushers, the Tigers still managed to pressure the Hoosiers’ quarterbacks, especially because blitzes were easier to disguise.

“There was a couple plays where I was coming free,” Brothers said. “(Senior linebacker Andrew) Wilson was coming free, Donny B (senior linebacker Donovan Bonner) was coming free, some of our linemen were coming free. It’s just a good way to confuse other offenses.”

During summer film studies, Steckel decided to use the “30” against Indiana.

Four days before the game, the decision was made to throw the new look at the Hoosiers to start the second half, if possible.

It’s possible Missouri will utilize a similar strategy in the future, hoping to catch an SEC opponent or two similarly off guard.

“We have five different packages and we haven’t used them all yet,” Steckel said.

Then again ...

“Hopefully, we don’t need any surprises,” Brothers said. “Hopefully, we can just go down, buckle our helmets and plays football.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com

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