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October 24, 2007

Eberflus helps Tigers slow Tech offense

Matt Eberflus
Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

A defense led by a safety nicknamed "Pig" was happier than a swine in slop playing against Texas Tech.

In a 41-10 rout of the Red Raiders on Saturday, Missouri's defense hogged the ball with four interceptions of efficient quarterback Graham Harrell and held record-setting freshman Michael Crabtree to a minuscule (for him) 76 yards.

For holding Texas Tech to season-lows in points, total yards and passing yards, Rivals.com named Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus its National Coordinator of the Week.

Before Saturday, Texas Tech's "Air Raid" offense was having a productive season even by Mike Leach's standards. Harrell had passed for 3,151 yards through seven games with astonishing efficiency. Though he had thrown the ball nearly 400 times, he had been intercepted only three times and had 31 touchdown passes.

Against Missouri, that stat was turned upside down. Harrell still got his 397 yards, but he more than doubled his interception total with a career-worst four picks.

It all started before the snap, Eberflus said.

"The things we like to do against spread teams is mix things up and mix our looks up and make sure the quarterback doesn't get a bead on what we're trying to do," Eberflus said. "The more you can pressure the quarterback and mix your alignments in your secondary sometimes you're in their face, sometimes you're off a few yards. That helps you as the game goes on."

The Tigers also limited the damage from Crabtree, a redshirt freshman who leads the nation in touchdown receptions (17) and receiving yards (1,310).

Saturday's loss was the first time Crabtree had been held under 100 yards and the second time he was kept him out of the end zone. He finished with 10 receptions for 76 yards.

Now that opponents have half a season's worth of game film, they are able to get a better feel of what Crabtree will do based on where he lines up and in what formation.

"You have to know where he is at all times because he's so explosive and such a great athlete," Eberflus said. "They've done a great job utilizing his talent. We made sure we knew where he was in every formation and knowing where he was and what routes he ran out of certain things. Our guys had a good handle on that."

After the snap, though, Missouri needed a playmaker. Chief among those was strong safety Cornelius "Pig" Brown.

Brown had one of the best days of any Tigers defender in recent years. Coaches assign point values for tackles, sacks, interceptions and big hits while subtracting points for missed tackles and missed assignments. Against Texas Tech, Brown had 14 tackles, 4.5 tackles for losses, an interception, a pass deflection and only one missed tackle. It was good for 75 points on the production board, shattering the old record of 58 points set by defensive end Brian Smith in a three-sack game against Baylor in 2004.

Holding Texas Tech to 10 points was a big surprise, but a winning performance by Missouri's defense against the Red Raiders isn't a complete shock. In four meetings with Texas Tech as Missouri's defensive coordinator, Eberflus has won three. Eberflus' defenses have forced 10 interceptions in the past three meetings. In fact, six of Harrell's 18 interceptions over the past two seasons have come against Missouri.

Yet all the talk leading up to Saturday's game was about the impending shootout between two of the top spread offenses in the nation. Eberflus said he didn't need to mention that storyline to his players as motivation.

"They brought it up," Eberflus said. "That was a big deal to them. They heard that. They took that as a challenge. That was something they grabbed onto and I didn't have to say too much about it because it was in their face."

OTHER NOMINEES FOR COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK:

Todd Orlando, Connecticut
The Huskies were the first team this year to hold Louisville to fewer than 400 yards; they limited the Cardinals to 321 while intercepting three passes in a 21-17 win Friday.


DeWayne Walker, UCLA
The Bruins held Cal to 299 yards and forced three Nate Longshore interceptions in a 30-21 win over the Bears.


Bruce Fowler, Vanderbilt
The Commodores held South Carolina to a season-low six points and 26 rushing yards in a 17-6 win in Columbia..


Chip Kelly, Oregon
Despite injuries on the offensive side of the ball, Oregon rolled up 465 rushing yards against Washington in a 55-34 win.




Mikell Simpson
Running back
Virginia


With starting tailback Cedric Peerman out against Maryland, Virginia needed an unsung hero to keep its lead in the ACC.

Simpson delivered. He had just six touches this season going into the game, but he carried the ball 16 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, and added 13 catches for 152 yards.

He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard rush to give the Cavaliers an 18-17 win in College Park.

OTHER NOMINEES:

QB Tim Tebow, Florida
Tebow cemented his status as a Heisman front-runner by passing for four touchdowns and running for a fifth in a 45-37 win over Kentucky.


TB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
In his first game without splitting carries with Jeremiah Johnson, Stewart ran for a career-high 251 yards and two touchdowns against Washington.


TB Ray Rice, Rutgers
Rice's power running game was too much for No. 2 USF. He ran for 181 yards in the 30-27 win over the Bulls on Thursday.


RB Matt Forte, Tulane
Forte ran for a Conference USA record 342 yards in a 41-34 win over SMU, his second 300-yard rushing performance of the season.



Jake Locker
Quarterback
Washington


Jake Locker's heroics weren't enough to defeat one-loss Oregon on Saturday, but they were enough to earn Freshman of the Week honors.

Locker kept Oregon on its toes by throwing for 257 yards and a touchdown, and rushing for another 78 yards in the 55-24 loss.

OTHER NOMINEES:

LB Scott Lutrus, Connecticut
He led the defensive effort for the Huskies against Louisville with 18 tackles and an interception.


TB Jeremy Avery, Boise State
Avery stepped in for an injured Ian Johnson to carry the ball 21 times for 110 yards and a touchdown in a 45-31 win over Louisiana Tech.


CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
Elzy helped Butch Davis beat his former team with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown and 39 receiving yards in a 33-27 upset of Miami.


TB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
Mathews continued his hot streak with 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 30-0 win over San Jose State.



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