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Sports | Published Aug. 28, 2009 | 0 comments

MU football completes summer training

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Sophomore backup quarterback Jimmy Costello releases the ball during a practice scrimmage Thursday afternoon in the Dan Devine Pavilion. This scrimmage signified the end of summer training camp for Missouri, who will play Illinois on Sept. 5 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Dann Wunderlich/Senior Staff Photographer

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Katie Prince/Graphic Designer

Published as a part of Maneater v. 76, Issue 2

The defense showed improvement, but the offense struggled.

Missouri concluded its summer training camp Thursday with a third and final team scrimmage. The game moved indoors due to poor weather conditions and no score was kept between the offense and defense, but the latter had control of the game.

"We have to get better, and we have to get better fast, which is typical anytime you have this final scrimmage," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We'll get in and grade the film, and find things we need to improve. We've got seven days to fix things. I think most things can be fixed, and that's our challenge to get that done."

After the offense seemed to turn a corner Tuesday by winning back the black jerseys, it struggled during the scrimmage. The team scored one touchdown, a five-yard run by junior running back Derrick Washington, and was plagued by spotty passing and dropped balls.

Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert said he acknowledged improvements must be made.

"You take the good and the bad, but we've got to watch the film and make adjustments pretty quick," Gabbert said. "We need to work on protection up front, we need to work on getting the right routes down. Personally, timing with the receivers, making the right reads, just little things to improve on."

Gabbert connected on 11 of 14 passes for 84 yards, while backup candidates sophomore Jimmy Costello and freshman Blaine Dalton struggled, going 8-17 with an interception and 5-12 with an interception, respectively.

"Athletically, our depth is pretty good," Pinkel said. "But you've got to be a good football player too. And that comes through repetition, doing it over and over again, doing things right. There's only one way to get better and that's through practicing better. So in some respects we looked pretty good, in other respects, there are some places to improve."

One possible explanation of the struggles on offense could be the improved Missouri defense. Last year, out of the 119 Division 1 schools, Missouri ranked 98 in total defense and 117 in passing defense.

Pinkel said he has seen marked progression from the defense between the spring and summer practices.

Thursday, the defense got contributions from a variety of players.

Sophomore defensive lineman Jacquies Smith continuously broke through the line and recorded two tackles for a loss in addition to a sack. The defense as a whole had five tackles for a loss and two interceptions.

Over the course of the spring and summer, the confidence of the defense continued to grow.

"It was an issue we had with making a lot of mental errors," senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "Between spring and now, we've been doing a good job of getting everybody on the same page. When you're a defense that has everybody doing the right thing, then it's pretty hard for you to be stopped."

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