Ideally, a football team goes into a bye week riding a wave of momentum after a big, physical win.
That was not Missouri’s case after a 42-7 drubbing at LSU on October 1. The game wasn’t as close as the score.
On Monday, Barry Odom and a group of players discussed how important it was to get that break. Coaches had the opportunity to get on the road and recruit and players had a chance to relax their bodies after five straight weeks of competitive football. It also gave the Tigers a head start on Florida, which could possibly give them a competitive advantage come Saturday at the 4-1 Florida Gators.
“I sure hope so; I’m counting on it,” Odom said. “We’ve had really good work, we’ve gotten more reps.”
“There’s a fine line between wanting to get healthy and getting some good work in on the bye-week,” Michael Scherer said. “After a loss like we had, guys just wanted to go out and play football again so we can get past it.”
The problem is, if a bye-week offers a chance at a competitive advantage, the Gators have it too. Florida was scheduled to host the LSU Tigers this past Saturday, but the game was postponed due to the potential of Hurricane Matthew impacting the safety of the teams and the fans.
No date has been set for making that game up.
The last time the Gators were in action, they squeaked out a 13-6 win on the road at Vanderbilt on October 1. Scherer recognizes that Florida’s offense is a bit more potent than its last outing likely indicated.
“They line up in a ton of different formations, and they can throw the ball all over the field, and they have very capable running backs also,” Scherer said. “They’re pretty dangerous everywhere.”
If Scherer is correct, Missouri’s defensive personnel needs to be on the same page before kickoff in Gainesville. The bye-week gave the Tigers a chance to come together after an ugly showing. It’s fair to say that this defense isn’t where it should be considering where it was last season and the personnel that returned this year.
DeMontie Cross and the defensive players held a meeting to iron out its issues.
“Just kind of making it easier on us on the field,” Joey Burkett said of the purpose of the meeting. “(Cross) was fantastic with it. We all sat down and just had a conversation like we were sitting in group chats.”
Much has been made about changes in the defense since Cross took over as its coordinator. Scherer understands that not everyone has fully bought into changes that Cross has made, but he said he is fed-up with those outside the team who think they know exactly what the real issues are.
“A lot of people think they know what we’re doing, but they have no clue,” Scherer said. “So when they say you should do this, this and this, well you’re not even close.”
He said that he didn’t run a defensive scheme in high school and spent his first four years at Missouri learning one scheme. He said that defensive schemes in general are very similar to one another anywhere in football but admitted that some have a harder time adapting to change.
“It’s tough. It’s not easy. Some guys aren’t as welcoming to change as some others,” Scherer said. “You have to develop a trust in it, you have to develop a trust in your teammates that you can all do it together, and then you have to believe in it and go out and do it.
“Where we go wrong sometimes is some guys may not trust it and do a different thing than they’re supposed to. I just don’t trust sometimes when I should and I try to do way too much.”
Scherer said it’s impossible to know if last year’s scheme was kept for this season would work or be just as effective. The bottom line is that it comes down to the players on the field, believing in what plays are called and believing in one another.
Aside from one shutout win over a much inferior Delaware State team, it’s clear that always hasn’t been the case.
As the Tigers get into the heart of its schedule, its defense needs to play as one. On Saturday, Missouri will show just how much the bye-week brought the team closer to it.