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How Missouri’s defense re-lived its horror to find catharsis for 2018

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Terez Hall organized a players-only viewing of the Missouri State game to remind his teammates how far the defense has come.
Derrick Forsythe / Rock M Nation

Terez Hall wouldn’t say his idea was met with enthusiasm from his teammates.

After a summer workout, Hall gathered the defense to re-watch the Missouri State game.

“Everybody was like ‘Why, why, why?’” Hall said.

If Missouri’s 1-5 start to the 2017 season was a horror movie, then its 72-43 “victory” over the Bears was the first harbinger of doom. Missouri State was the hillbilly playing a banjo at the filling station. The Bears were the bloodied, injured hitchhiker that our doomed heroes foolishly pick up to start the action.

“That’s exactly how it was,” safety Cam Hilton said in reference to the horror film comparison.

“It was bad,” Hilton said. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was terrible to watch. Especially with the freshmen coming in, they probably thought we were terrible because they were watching the game.”

“Very painful,” defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. said. “I wanted to cut it off while we were watching it. I kept telling them we need to cut this off. We need to watch it though, just to embrace it.”

The gore for Missouri’s defense in that game was straight out of the Saw series. Missouri State threw for 353 yards and ran for 139; Peyton Huslig, the quarterback, would only top 200 passing yards twice more all season. He never threw for more than 300. It took a Herculean effort from Missouri’s effort to ensure a victory, as Drew Lock threw for 521 yards and seven touchdowns.

For the defense, it was a loss in every aspect save for the scoreboard. And over the next five games, the same mistakes of Missouri State kept repeating themselves.

‘You’ve got to see how bad you was to see where you’re gonna go.’

As Missouri’s defense prepared to rebound this year, Hall — now one of the leaders on defense — wanted to remind everyone how far the group has come. From 1-5 to 7-6 gave Missouri momentum to end last season.

The Tigers again start with an FCS team (UT-Martin) and as last year proved, a bad first game can snowball into a near disaster.

“You’ve got to see where you was at, at your lowest point,” Hall said. “It’s hard watching that film. We were all out of place, guys weren’t physical enough, we couldn’t tackle as well.

“You’ve got to see how bad you was to see where you’re gonna go.”

Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters used Hall’s video session as an example of how much growth he’s already seen in the 2018 defense.

“They got a taste of what it meant to be successful last year, toward the end of it,” Walters said. “And they saw what they did to sort of reach that. And they also remember last year.”

Taking it seriously

While the onset of the video session seems humorous, Hall said it was all business once the tape began. The defensive players broke down plays, talked about specifics when there were breakdowns in coverage or up front, and explained what they’re looking for as “indicators” this year.

No one was joking around.

“Especially not when I’m... heck naw,” Hall said. “Why would we be even meeting if we’re gonna be doing all that?”

“I think we all had a couple of plays where we all wanted to hide,” Hilton said.

Walters said the staff evaluated their preparation last August, and tweaks have been made. For one, the offense and defense will go 11-on-11 more in the build-up to the season, in order to identify the top players on both sides of the ball more quickly.

“We’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year, just in terms of football IQ and having a full season in the system of guys who are out there playing.”

“It was pretty chaotic last year,” Cam Hilton said about the build up to the season. “Just a lot of things going on.

Hall, however, didn’t believe the issues were evident during camp in 2017.

“Basically, we just underestimated Missouri State at the time,” Hall said. “That’s what happened.

“Coach Odom, they put us through the best stuff to get us prepared... It ain’t ever the coaches, man. I don’t care what play they put out.”

Don’t expect Missouri to underestimate any opponent in 2018.

“We’ve come a long way,” Hilton said. “It’s going to be an exciting year.”