Indiana gives Mizzou secondary chance to gain respect
COLUMBIA, Mo. — A certain tweet has been getting a lot of attention from Missouri’s secondary lately.
The message — sent to senior corner Randy Ponder from an Indiana fan account — is a new spin on an old trick, a 140-character snippet of bulletin board material.
— IU Sports Report (@IUsportsreport) September 16, 2013
“We thought it was pretty funny,” sophomore safety Ian Simon says. “A lot of the guys have been laughing about it. But, at the same time, it kind of lit a fire a little bit.”
A dose of extra motivation might be a good thing for Simon and his teammates, because their Saturday night matchup with Indiana (2-1) has the potential to turn into the kind of barn burner that would make the Tigers’ old conference jealous.
Just ask senior corner E.J. Gaines.
“This is like going back to the Big 12, for me,” he says. “They throw the ball. It’s competition everywhere on the field. As a corner, as a secondary, it’s exciting to come out and play a team like Indiana.”
While Gaines relishes a chance to line up across from a pass-happy team, he isn’t thrilled with the defense-be-damned line of thinking that makes on figure this will be a shootout determined by the last team to touch the football.
Rather, he and his secondary see a chance to bring some respect to a unit that’s twice shown signs of stress against sub-par competition, Murray State and Toledo.
“We feel like we have stepped up our level from last year a lot as a unit,” Simon says. “We worked extremely hard through the offseason.”
It’s shown in the six interceptions Missouri has plucked in two games. Other numbers aren’t so impressive. The 2013 Tigers have surrendered an average of 218 yards per game; quarterbacks complete 61.3 percent of their throws.
Indiana (2-1) will take its chances. The Hoosiers’ sped-up, spread-out air attack averages 50 points per game.
“They can get in and out of it and create a lot of problems for you,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says.
Only two teams in the country (Texas A&M and Utah State) have thrown for more touchdowns than Indiana’s 12. The Hoosiers average 10.3 yards per catch and 339 passing yards. And freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld is only getting better. It appears he has claimed the starting role thanks to a passer rating of 195.32.
Which brings us back to that tweet. Best receiving corp in the country is a bit of a stretch, yes. But Indiana is more than capable of exposing and exploiting any weakness in Missouri’s secondary.
The Hoosiers are coming, and everyone knows they’re coming through the air.
The question is: Can the Tigers stop them?
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at email@example.com.