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April 18, 2009

Day for the Defense

Those Missouri fans getting their first glimpse of the 2009 Tigers who hoped to walk away from the Black and Gold game convinced the offense wouldn't miss a beat with Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Tommy Saunders and Jeremy Maclin gone will have to wait another day for proof.

The Tiger defense stifled the offense, taking a 40-19 halftime lead while the first-stringers were in, despite a scoring system that is often heavily weighted toward the offense. Blaine Gabbert and Jimmy Costello were unable to lead the offense to a touchdown in their time on the field and the defense ended up with a 68-40 win.

"I'm not sure what's going on," Sean Weatherspoon said. "I don't know if they changed the scoring system or what, but today was just a day where the defense came out and played with attitude."

"It really should be impossible (for the defense to win)," Kip Edwards said.

Of course, for every negative in a scrimmage, there is a positive. That positive came in the form of the Tiger defense. Edwards started the day strong with an interception of Gabbert that he returned across midfield.

"I made the big play because of the D-Line," Edwards said. "Jacquies and Aldon got a great push and Blaine just threw it straight to me."

"I hate throwing the interception," offensive coordinator David Yost said. "It really comes down to turnovers. It's just like a regular season game. You turn the ball over and don't score touchdowns, you're going to have a hard time winning and that's what we did today."

The offense's best opportunity at points came when Gabbert led the offense to a first and goal inside the five-yard line. That drive was keyed by a 38-yard run on a reverse by Jerrell Jackson. But DeVion Moore was thrown for a one-yard loss and Gabbert was sacked twice, forcing a field goal attempt.

Things didn't exactly look up when the backup offense came in. Blaine Dalton's first snap ended in a botched exchange with Matt Davis and a fumble, which was recovered by Chris Earnhardt pounced on at the one-yard-line.

Costello ran the ball in on the ensuing snap, resulting in the first offensive touchdown of the day, though it happened in large part due to the defense setting him up with perfect field position.

"You know what?" Weatherspoon said. "I thought the defense was going to get an opportunity to get a safety and they had to go 99 yards. That was a little shabby right there."

Ashton Glaser, the Tigers' fourth quarterback, led the team inside the 30-yard line, but his drive ended when a pass on fourth-and-2 was completed short of the marker. It succinctly wrapped up a less than stellar day for the Tiger offense.

"This is a good thing for the kids to get themselves ready to come out and play in a game-like atmosphere," Yost said. "You get some butterflies. We'll watch some video tomorrow and we saw it up in the box, talking on the headphones to the coaches, guys were unsure, they were playing slower today, but that's maturing and competing."

"The offense is a whole lot better than what you saw today," Edwards said. "Jerrell Jackson ran a 4.45 in the spring. We got Wes Kemp, he ran a 4.44. We got speed, we got talent. Rolandis (Woodland), he's injured right now, so you really didn't get to see Rolandis. And then, Blaine, he's got a cannon. He can throw it from anywhere."

But on this day, none of that happened. Saturday was a day for the Tiger defense.

"It was a great day for the defense," Weatherspoon said. "It happens like that sometimes. Some days they get us, some days we get them. We're just excited that we could come out and play so well. It's my first spring game winning."

Most Improved

The Tigers handed out the annual spring awards for most improved players at each position. Here are the award winners:

Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert
Tailback: DeVion Moore
Wide Receiver: Wes Kemp
Tight End: Michael Egnew
Offensive Line: Dan Hoch
Defensive Line: Jacquies Smith
Linebacker: Will Ebner
Safety: Jarrell Harrison
Cornerback: Kevin Rutland
Special Teams: Tanner Mills

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