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October 24, 2007
A defense led by a safety nicknamed "Pig" was happier than a swine in slop playing against Texas Tech.
In a 41-10 rout of the Red Raiders on Saturday, Missouri's defense hogged the ball with four interceptions of efficient quarterback Graham Harrell and held record-setting freshman Michael Crabtree to a minuscule (for him) 76 yards.
For holding Texas Tech to season-lows in points, total yards and passing yards, Rivals.com named Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus its National Coordinator of the Week.
Before Saturday, Texas Tech's "Air Raid" offense was having a productive season even by Mike Leach's standards. Harrell had passed for 3,151 yards through seven games with astonishing efficiency. Though he had thrown the ball nearly 400 times, he had been intercepted only three times and had 31 touchdown passes.
Against Missouri, that stat was turned upside down. Harrell still got his 397 yards, but he more than doubled his interception total with a career-worst four picks.
It all started before the snap, Eberflus said.
"The things we like to do against spread teams is mix things up and mix our looks up and make sure the quarterback doesn't get a bead on what we're trying to do," Eberflus said. "The more you can pressure the quarterback and mix your alignments in your secondary ? sometimes you're in their face, sometimes you're off a few yards. ? That helps you as the game goes on."
The Tigers also limited the damage from Crabtree, a redshirt freshman who leads the nation in touchdown receptions (17) and receiving yards (1,310).
Saturday's loss was the first time Crabtree had been held under 100 yards and the second time he was kept him out of the end zone. He finished with 10 receptions for 76 yards.
Now that opponents have half a season's worth of game film, they are able to get a better feel of what Crabtree will do based on where he lines up and in what formation.
"You have to know where he is at all times because he's so explosive and such a great athlete," Eberflus said. "They've done a great job utilizing his talent. We made sure we knew where he was in every formation and knowing where he was and what routes he ran out of certain things. Our guys had a good handle on that."
After the snap, though, Missouri needed a playmaker. Chief among those was strong safety Cornelius "Pig" Brown.
Brown had one of the best days of any Tigers defender in recent years. Coaches assign point values for tackles, sacks, interceptions and big hits while subtracting points for missed tackles and missed assignments. Against Texas Tech, Brown had 14 tackles, 4.5 tackles for losses, an interception, a pass deflection and only one missed tackle. It was good for 75 points on the production board, shattering the old record of 58 points set by defensive end Brian Smith in a three-sack game against Baylor in 2004.
Holding Texas Tech to 10 points was a big surprise, but a winning performance by Missouri's defense against the Red Raiders isn't a complete shock. In four meetings with Texas Tech as Missouri's defensive coordinator, Eberflus has won three. Eberflus' defenses have forced 10 interceptions in the past three meetings. In fact, six of Harrell's 18 interceptions over the past two seasons have come against Missouri.
Yet all the talk leading up to Saturday's game was about the impending shootout between two of the top spread offenses in the nation. Eberflus said he didn't need to mention that storyline to his players as motivation.
"They brought it up," Eberflus said. "That was a big deal to them. They heard that. They took that as a challenge. That was something they grabbed onto and I didn't have to say too much about it because it was in their face."
OTHER NOMINEES FOR COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK:
Todd Orlando, Connecticut
Bruce Fowler, Vanderbilt
Chip Kelly, Oregon