Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri’s defense has been one of the best in the county this season, allowing 4.04 yards per play — fifth-best in the nation. On the flip side, Missouri’s 4.5 yards per play on offense are tied for fifth-worst.
So, when asking about just how severe, and costly, Missouri’s offensive struggles have been this season, one tends to err on the side of mincing words.
Still, offensive coordinator Josh Henson got the gist.
“Are you asking me if we averaged 20 points a game, we’d be 7-0 right now?” he said Monday, interrupting a reporter as he tried to phrase the question kindly. “Yeah, I get it. Yeah, I understand it, and it’s frustrating. It (stinks), and we have to get it fixed.”
With such a disparity between the defense’s play and the offense’s play, the possibility of a divided locker room arises. Linebacker Michael Scherer said there’s no such schism.
“It’ll never be like that,” he said. “Because we’re too close. It’s never a pointing-fingers type of thing. If the offense isn’t doing very well — I mean, we all know it. Nobody needs to bring it up. No one needs to point it out and say ‘Hey, it’s your fault, this or that (player’s) fault.’ We just kind of go about our business and do what we do.”
Scherer said offensive players have approached defensive players and offered apologies for not holding up their end of the bargain. Freshman quarterback Drew Lock practically broke into one mid-interview.
“They could obviously turn on us pretty quick like, ‘C’mon. What are you guys doing out there? We’re out here busting our (rears), and you guys are putting up six points and three points a game,’” he said.
Lock called it “gut-wrenching” that Missouri’s offense hasn’t been able to put up enough points to turn the defense’s play into wins. He said he doesn’t think of players in the locker room as either members of the offense or defense.
“One team here,” Lock said. “That’s how any team’s got to be. You can’t divide. Once you start to divide, things are going to go bad.”
Head coach Gary Pinkel has been insistent in pointing out this is not the first time he’s had one side of the ball outplaying the other. Strong offenses with just-good-enough defenses were the norm during much of his tenure in Columbia.
He said Missouri hasn’t had many instances of players getting frustrated with their counterparts on the other side of the ball — then or now.
“That’s their teammate. That’s their buddy,” Pinkel said. “And you know that they’re working hard and you’re going to be encouraging. You can be an encourager or a discourager, and in our walls, in this building, we want encouraging, positive people.
“And if we happen to see any of that going on, generally we’ve got captains, leaders that make sure that gets taken care of. We rarely have a problem with it. We’re certainly aware of it. And when you’re going through adversity, we always have a zero tolerance of bad attitudes in our program.”