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Defense rules Black and Gold game

Gabbert

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) tries to out run defensive end Aldon Smith (85). Photo by Clay McGlaughlin

Bring up the weaknesses of the 2008 Tiger football team, and some of the players tend to get defensive. But during the Black and Gold game at Memorial Stadium on April 18, 2009, defense was a good thing.

The gold jerseys on defense dominated the annual inter-squad game 68-40 to end the spring practice season. The bashing showed the offensive players that there is work to do before the 2009 season opener against Illinois in St. Louis on Sept. 5.

“They beasted us,” says sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert of Balwin, Mo., who finished 9 of 17 for 93 yards and an interception. “The defense has been working hard all spring and they outplayed us.”

Senior safety Del Howard of Dallas led the way with six tackles followed by a solid five-tackle performance from junior linebacker Andrew Gachkar of Overland Park, Kan.

From the opening drive, the defense made it clear they were ready to take the “scrimmage” seriously.

“Everybody says [the team] has a target on our chest, but this defense feels like we’re the underdog every game,” says senior defensive lineman Jaron Baston of Blue Springs, Mo.

Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Costello (10 of 21, 70) of Liberty scored the only offensive touchdown of the day on a 2-yard option play, while Gabbert had a chance to show off his celebrated arm on a first-half deep route that soared 60 yards before falling incomplete.

“I feel like we had a really good spring,” says Coach Gary Pinkel. “I feel a lot better about it now than I did when we started.”

The Black and Gold game also raised 4,552 pounds of food for the Central Missouri Food Bank and provided an opportunity for pre-game drills on Faurot Field for 58 youngsters through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri.

“It was a great time to get out there with the kids and show them what we do out here,” said senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who supervised a dummy-tackling drill. “You can make these kids’ day because they love the Tigers.”