Defense sets tone for Mizzou

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

COLUMBIA (AP) -- Missouri needed its defense in the 17-6 season-opening win over Miami of Ohio over the weekend.

It will probably need it again Friday night at Arizona State, which won its opener against UC-Davis by a 48-14 score. The No. 21 Tigers are underdogs and they are breaking in new quarterback James Franklin behind a rebuilt line.

"We've got to be more potent on offense, there's no question about that," coach Gary Pinkel said Tuesday. "Arizona State is like a really good Big 12 team. That's why we're in this league. To play people like these guys."

The defense will also be shorthanded. Although cornerback Kip Edwards should return from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the opener, Missouri will be without end Jacquies Smith (dislocated left elbow) and linebacker Will Ebner (high ankle sprain). Smith will be out at least this week and Ebner will probably miss at least a couple games.

"It's something we're used to," end Brad Madison said. "It happened last year, so guys have got to step up. That's a reason they're talking about the depth in our defense. I think we're going to be all right."

The only score against Missouri in the opener came on a 14-yard drive after Franklin threw an interception.

E.J. Gaines recorded his first career interception in the second quarter, thwarting Miami's longest drive of the day. Brayden Burnett forced a fumble that was recovered by Dominique Hamilton on Miami's final possession, and Burnett will start Friday in place of Smith.

Hamilton had eight tackles in his first game since breaking his right ankle last season against Oklahoma. The line is deep enough that highly-touted Sheldon Richardson said he only got about a dozen snaps in his Missouri debut.

"Not enough," Richardson said. "But you've got to take what you can get. You can't complain."

Missouri matched its average last year with two takeaways and won the turnover battle by one. According to Pinkel, the Tigers have won 39 of their last 41 games when winning the turnover battle.

"We definitely made a lot of mistakes last game," Gaines said. "We'd rather not be a bend-but-not-break defense."

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